July 22, 2017
It has been a busy week for votes here at the Teamsters Local 174 Union Hall, and last night the streak continued as Teamsters employed in the Sand & Gravel industry voted overwhelmingly in favor of a strike action.
This nearly-unanimous vote comes after a long week of contract negotiations that have led nowhere. The group had the Friday night meeting marked on their calendars for nearly a week – but everyone was originally hoping that the vote would be on a complete contract proposal from their Employers. Since no agreement was reached, the gathered employees instead voted to authorize a strike.
“We really wanted to put a recommended proposal in front of our members at this meeting, but the Employers didn’t seem interested in cooperating with us on that goal,” said Local 174 Director of Negotiations Patty Warren. “Every proposal was met with ‘reject, reject, reject.’ They acted like the sky was falling with every proposal we made, which is outrageous behavior for an industry in the middle of a record-setting boom. I’ve never seen such blatant disrespect from an Employer in all my years of negotiating contracts.”
Teamsters in this industry – who drive dump trucks and concrete mixers for Cadman, Stoneway, CalPortland, and Salmon Bay Sand & Gravel, and operate cement distribution at Lehigh Cement Terminal – entered their negotiations with expectations in line with the booming industry they work in. “Construction in the Seattle area is off the charts,” said Todd Parker, an employee at Cadman Seattle and member of the Local 174 Bargaining Committee. “Just the other day there was an article in the Seattle Times about how Seattle’s construction boom has set another new record. Well, we literally laid the foundation for that construction boom. Now it’s our turn to reap some of the benefits of that.”
The group’s contract expires on July 31, 2017. If an agreement cannot be reached by then, the group could be pushing ‘PAUSE’ on Seattle’s construction boom as early as August 1st.
The mood at the meeting was electrifying, as every rank-and-file member of the Bargaining Committee gave an impassioned speech encouraging their coworkers to vote in favor of a strike. The group also heard speeches from the rest of their contract bargaining team, and from the leadership of Teamsters Local 38 in Snohomish County, who pledged their support. The speeches were regularly interrupted by cheering and applause.
“These Employers are making more money than they know what to do with, and they’re making it on the backs of our members,” said Local 174 Secretary-Treasurer Rick Hicks. “Our members work without breaks, on equipment that barely functions, and without the benefit of seniority for even the most basic working conditions. These Employers don’t have any respect for the work the Teamsters do. Well, now we’ve sent them a message that we aren’t going to stand for it.”
“You can’t build a skyscraper without concrete, and you can’t pour concrete without Teamsters,” Rick Hicks continued. “There isn’t anyone on the Employer side of the table who could do what our members do day in and day out. If we can’t get to an agreement, then I guess these Companies will be seeing that firsthand.”
Founded in 1909, Teamsters Local 174 represents 7,200 working men and women in the Seattle area. “Like” us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TeamstersLocal174.