SEATTLE — Thirty-four concrete truck drivers organized by Teamster Local 174 at Gary Merlino Construction got the ball rolling Nov. 19 when they said “No” to the company’s “last, best and final” offer of wages below prevailing construction levels.
Truckers at Stoneway Concrete soon joined them, then concrete mixers at Cadman, CalPortland, Salmon Bay Sand & Gravel, and Lehigh Cement, bringing the total to more than 300 on strike. They’re picketing 24/7, impacting construction in King County, one of the hottest construction markets in the country.
In addition to compensation on par for the industry, key issues include forced Saturday work and making healthcare more affordable for union retirees.
The bosses “exploit these workers as much and as long as humanly possible, refusing to give them something that might actually allow them to retire before their bodies are completely destroyed by the work they do,” a union statement says. “Driving a dump truck, after all, is very hard on the human body — especially when the truck is empty and every bump in the road starts to feel like a minor car wreck.”
“Union trades — painters, glazers and crane operators — won’t cross our pickets,” Jamie Fleming, communications director for Local 174, told the Militant. “You really want to get the cranes, because then no construction can take place.”
“We have been getting support, including burn barrels from the Ironworkers union. Then we put out a call on Facebook for firewood and it has been arriving by the truckload!” she said. “The company has cut off negotiations. The contract was up July 31 and everyone saw this coming.”
More help is needed, Fleming said. People in the area can join the picket lines, locations are listed on the local’s website, Teamsters174.net. Donations, messages of support, and other solidarity can be sent to Teamsters Local 174, 14675 Interurban Ave. South, Ste. 303, Tukwila, WA 98168.