August 3, 2017
For the second time in a week, concrete trucks across the Seattle area sat empty as their drivers attended another meeting at the Local 174 Union Hall to discuss their Employers’ latest contract offer. And also for the second time in a week, the Companies’ lowball offer was rejected with a boisterous voice vote, as the group unanimously agreed that the offer was not even worth voting.
Over 90% of the 294 Teamsters mixer drivers and support employees working at Cadman, Stoneway, CalPortland, Salmon Bay Sand & Gravel, and Lehigh Cement were in attendance at the 9:00AM meeting. Once again the room was packed, with orange “Rock Solid” shirts worn by most of the meeting’s attendees.
The highlight of the meeting was the speeches given by the members themselves. These speeches came not only from members of the rank-and-file Bargaining Committee, but from various people in the assembled crowd: older workers who had over thirty years on the job, younger workers who had never been on strike before, and workers from nearly all of the different Companies and work locations represented in the room. The message of the speeches was universal: we are standing together in solidarity to demand that our Employers give us the respect we deserve.
One speaker reminded the crowd that in 2008, they had accepted a contract with no wage increases over three years. They did this because the industry was in a downturn, and the workers knew that was what they needed to do in order to keep their Employers in business so that they would have jobs to come back to when the industry improved. Now that Seattle is in the midst of a massive construction boom, the time has arrived to make up for those years.
“It’s our turn,” CalPortland employee and rank-and-file Bargaining Committee member Mark Hislop repeated several times, to cheers, hoots, and loud applause. “It is OUR TIME!”
At the close of the meeting and with very member fired up and in lock-step, Local 174 Secretary-Treasurer Rick Hicks convinced the members to return to work until and unless they hear otherwise.
After the meeting adjourned, the Bargaining Committee and Local 174 representatives met to discuss what happens next. When the subject of the group’s strength and solidarity came up, once again, the message was unanimous and clear: “They’re solid. They’re strong. I haven’t heard one single person waver,” said Local 174 Business Agent Michael Walker, a former Cadman driver who now serves as the Business Agent for the Sand & Gravel workers. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen them as enthusiastic as they are right now.”
Meanwhile, the group of workers will continue to work under their expired contract as Local 174 Secretary-Treasurer Rick Hicks and Director of Negotiations Patty Warren do everything in their power to avoid a strike. The goal is still to reach a contract deal that will satisfy both sides.
“A strike is always a last resort,” Rick Hicks said. “But at this point, we seem to be running out of options. These Employers still just do not get it.”
As for whether or not they will ‘get it’ without the Teamsters delivering their message from the street, only time will tell.
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.