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Carpenters Come Out in Force to Strike For More Pay, Halting Construction Across Washington

Newsweek logo Newsweek 9/16/2021 Alexandra Hutzler
a group of men riding on the back of a truck: A construction strike has started in Washington as hundreds of carpenters walked off the job Thursday in demand of better pay. In this photo, a general view of Climate Change Arena is shown as it undergoes construction on July 23, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. © Abbie Parr/Getty Images A construction strike has started in Washington as hundreds of carpenters walked off the job Thursday in demand of better pay. In this photo, a general view of Climate Change Arena is shown as it undergoes construction on July 23, 2020 in Seattle, Washington.

A construction strike is under way in Washington state as hundreds of carpenters have walked off the job in demand of better pay.

After a kick-off rally on Wednesday, members of the Northwest Carpenters Union were on the picket line Thursday. More than 800 members have signed up to join the protest, the union said.

There are five picket locations across the state with two in Bellevue, and one each in Fife, Redmond and Seattle.

Carpenters for more than 30 employers will not go to work on Thursday amid the labor dispute between contractors that have assigned their bargaining rights to the Associated General Contractors of Washington (ACG).

In a vote earlier this month, 56 percent of the union's membership rejected the latest contract proposal from the AGC and authorized a strike. This was the fourth tentative agreement union members have rejected this year.

Ryan Hyke, the union's regional manager in western Washington, said that those working under the agreement are obligated to withhold their labor until a new tentative agreement can be offered to the union for ratification.

"Being a union carpenter means the freedom to vote democratically to determine your own wages, benefits and future," Evelyn Shapiro, the union's executive secretary-treasurer, said in a statement. "Our members have been divided over this historic agreement and we do not take going on strike lightly. We must come together and build an agreement that will unite our membership."

The ACG believed their most recent proposal was "fair" and said it offered workers a "strong package" of pay raises.

"We are disappointed in the outcome but continue to believe that both of our future successes are dependent upon the continuation of our partnership," the ACG said in a statement.

The rejected agreement would have included a 20 percent total package increase—including wages and benefits—over four years, expanded parking reimbursements for some worksites and increased employer contributions to health care and pensions.

According to the Seattle Times, carpenters want to see a bigger increase in pay in order to keep up with the rising cost of living in the area. The newspaper reported members want a $15 per hour increase over three years, and the ACG proposal would have incrementally increased pay over the next four years by $9.40 per hour.

The construction projects that may be impacted by the strike include two Microsoft campuses in Redmond and Sammamish, a Madison-Boylston affordable housing tower and the Bellevue Plaza project.

Construction projects that won't be impacted include the state's Climate Change Arena, the Port of Seattle and Seattle school sites.

Newsweek reached out to the Northwest Carpenters Union for additional comment, but didn't receive a response before publication.

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