Amid a construction community atmosphere already stretched to breaking by labor shortages, a Seattle carpenters union takes an unexpected path by voting to go on strike. The results: 56% for, 44% against striking.
This action will halt construction on many notable projects, including the Microsoft office rebuild and a large mixed-use office facility known as Block 38. However, according to the strike rules, labor will continue at some of the city’s most significant projects, including the Climate Pledge Arena and the Sound Transit Light Rail. Approximately 2,000 carpenters of the 12,000 in the Union will work those sites, donating a portion of their wages to the strike fund.
Strikers want pay raises. The Union claims that wages don’t keep up with the rapidly increasing cost of living in Seattle.
Current wages range from $46.92 to $48.42 per hour. The Association of General Contractors (AGC) offered to increase wages by $9.50 per hour over four years plus additional pension contributions. However, the Union torpedoed that deal; they want a $15 per hour increase over three years and better parking pay.
According to John McCallum, a carpenter who voted against the deal, “Seattle has been booming since 2010. Yet, every time the contract comes up, the same crap is spewed: We did the best we could. We’ll get you better next time. … It’s coming to a head, and we need to stand up for ourselves.”
The AGC declined to comment beyond a written statement, “a paramount concern includes union market share and competitiveness … therefore, it is important that every carpenter understands the major challenges of eroding market share and increased open-shop competition facing all Union Carpenters, their families, the Union, and their employer.”
The Union’s last strike occurred in 2003.