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Concrete Workers Shut Down 2nd-Largest Customs Export District in Wash. State
(EVERETT, Wash.) – At 7 a.m. PST, striking concrete mixer drivers and plant workers employed by Lehigh Northwest Cement Company extended their picket line to the Port of Everett’s 55,000-ton bulk storage cement facility for three hours. Lehigh Northwest operates a giant storage dome and other distribution facilities at the port; the company distributes approximately half a million tons of cement throughout the greater Seattle region by truck and rail each year.
This morning’s picket line extension to the Port of Everett cement terminal has shut down all operations at the port, which supports nearly $21 billion worth of U.S. exports annually. The Port of Everett is the second-largest export customs district in Washington state, and fifth-largest on the west coast. Members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) who work at the port are honoring the Teamster members’ picket line and are refusing to work.
Today also marks the beginning of the sixth week of the general strike by more than 300 concrete mixer drivers and concrete plant workers at five concrete companies in the Seattle area. The workers began their strike on December 3, 2021 to demand that the companies that control the concrete industry in the Seattle area stop violating federal labor laws that protect workers’ rights. After six weeks of the strike, Seattle’s $23 billion construction industry has begun to grind to a halt without concrete.
“These giant, multinational construction companies are demanding that workers accept a package of wages, healthcare and retirement that would be a decrease in compensation over three years when you take inflation into account,” said Rick Hicks, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 174 in Seattle. “This package would also be significantly less than the compensation packages other construction workers in Seattle receive.”
The five concrete companies, all of which traditionally bargain new contracts with Local 174 together, are also refusing to fund a health care plan that could save workers thousands of dollars per year in retirement, even though Local 174’s concrete industry members have offered to cover any cost increases the company may incur.
The concrete/cement companies where members of Local 174 are on strike include the giant German construction company HeidelbergCement (operating under the Lehigh and Cadman brands in the Pacific Northwest), the Japanese-based Taiheiyo Cement, and two major regional companies that control the flow of concrete in Seattle (the city with the second-most construction cranes in the country). These companies service the region’s largest current construction projects, including:
- Microsoft’s Redmond campus modernization
- Renovation of Seattle’s waterfront
- Sound Transit’s system expansion project
- Sea-Tac Airport’s runway renovations
On December 3, 2021, after six months of negotiations, Local 174 members were forced to strike after the companies refused to stop violating federal labor law by failing to bargain in good faith for a successor agreement.
The dramatically subpar demands have led industry insiders to speculate that the concrete companies, working with major national construction companies, have forced employees to strike in order to begin a multiyear effort to purge union workers from the Seattle construction industry.
Founded in 1909, Teamsters Local 174 represents 8,600 working men and women in Seattle and the surrounding areas. “Like” us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TeamstersLocal174.