At 7 a.m. on Friday, Teamsters Local 174 members at concrete company CalPortland began an unfair labor practice strike, with picket lines held at locations in Kenmore, Seattle and Snoqualmie.
The goal of the strike is to get the company to stop violating federal labor law and come back to the bargaining table for a contract everyone can agree on, said Local 174 spokesperson Jamie Fleming.
Negotiations for a new contract began July 17. Fleming said the union’s three-year contract was expiring July 31 and they were negotiating for the next agreement with five companies including CalPortland. The other four sand and gravel companies are Cadman, Stoneway, Salmon Bay Sand and Gravel and Lehigh Cement.
Fleming said negotiations continued for a week when they realized the employers were not willing to bargain in good faith, refused to provide information necessary to continue negotiations and rejected union proposals without explanation or counter offer.
The union then held a strike-authorizing vote with all Local 174 members while continuing to attempt negotiations with the help of mediation.
“Unfortunately, even the mediation broke down,” Fleming said.
CalPortland is the only company where labor strikes are currently being held. According to a Teamsters press release, CalPortland was the worst offender when it came to the unfair labor practice.
“We told CalPortland over and over again that they needed to follow the law and bargain fairly or they were going to end up with a work stoppage,” said Local 174 secretary-treasurer Rick Hicks in the release. “They didn’t listen to us and now here we are. We hope that this can be resolved quickly and we can get back to the bargaining table to get a contract that everyone can agree to.”
In response to the strike, CalPortland issued a written statement.
According to the statement, the company’s mixer drivers who walked off the job on strike left “dozens of projects incomplete resulting in tens of thousands of dollars in damages throughout the City of Seattle and the surrounding area.”
The negotiations CalPortland participated in with Local 174 included three other ready-mixed concrete employers in the area.
“Despite continued negotiations, the parties were unable to reach a new labor agreement and the union voted to reject the company’s last, best and final offer prior to the expiration of its labor agreement at midnight on Aug. 1, 2017,” the statement reads. “The union also sanctioned labor action against the four employers.”
The statement continues, stating that CalPortland and its representatives have continued to engage the union professionally and in good faith.
“At the union’s request, the company met with union members and a mediator on Aug. 2, 2017, but attempts to reach a fair and competitive agreement for all parties were again unsuccessful,” the statement reads. “Proposals put forth by the union continue to be unrealistic and economically unsustainable. Further negotiations with a mediator are scheduled to resume with the parties on Tuesday Aug. 15, 2017.”
According to the statement, the company is astonished by the union’s decision to strike Friday morning in advance of the “mutually scheduled negotiations set for early next week.”
Fleming said there have been strikes held in the industry before — typically short, one-day strikes. However 10 years ago, she said, there was a 32-day strike involving all five sand and gravel companies.
As the current strike is happening, Fleming said the Local 174 members are standing strong and standing together.
“We’re gonna get this done,” she said, invoking the union’s motto. “We’re rock solid.”