330 truck drivers, concrete pourers, technicians, mechanics, and yard workers have been on strike since Nov. 19 across King County, Washington. The strike is a result of the same three-year contractual bargaining with the Associated General Contractors (AGC) employer’s group that last September led to a strike by 2,000 out of the area’s 12,000 carpenters. The employers offered the concrete workers a package about 25% below what was ratified in contracts with other construction worker unions. Concrete workers are demanding wage increases, changes to the healthcare plans for retirees, and basic respect.
Negotiators for the bosses display an arrogance that many workers would find familiar. The Puget Sound concrete workers feel that there has been a complete disregard for the toll that working through a pandemic has placed on them. Rising prices are straining workers’ buying power. They often work 10 to 12 hour shifts, 50 or 60 hours per week under hazardous conditions, leading many to “retire before they qualify for Medicare with back, elbow, and shoulder problems, carpal tunnel syndrome, and lung diseases from silica and diesel exhaust.” The union is also demanding that the employers accept a retiree healthcare proposal that would save union members nearly $6,000 per year in premiums, which was already agreed upon in other AGC contracts.
Workers spend little time with their families and have had more stress on the job recently. Every spot of real estate is bought and built upon by developers who pack more and more in smaller spaces, leading to a challenging work environment for drivers who have to maneuver 70,000 pound concrete trucks through denser city streets. Seattle’s $23 billion construction industry is held up by the strike. This shows the power workers have when they stand together and withhold their labor. This fight should be joined by anyone who can join it, in whatever way they are able to. An injury to one is an injury to all!