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Thousands of carpenters in Washington state on strike

Construction-Spending
Rogelio V. Solis
/
The Associated Press file
Thousands of carpenters in Washington state are on strike.

If you spot picket signs around the region, including at the social-media company Facebook, don’t be surprised. Starting Thursday, thousands of carpenters in Washington state are on strike.

They're all members of the Northwest Carpenters Union. The group is in contract negotiations with the Associated General Contractors of Washington. Union members have rejected all four of the construction industry organization’s proposals.

About 2,000 of the union’s roughly 12,000 members are withholding labor, said Jeanie-Marie Price, the union’s spokesperson. Approximately 800 are picketing at various sites. Still, others are each day contributing at least two hours of wages to a strike fund to support those not working. The union approved the strike with a 56% to 44% vote earlier this month.

Certain key construction sites in the region, such as those connected to Sound Transit, will not be impacted because the workers have agreements in place preventing a strike. Price said impacted work sites include Microsoft sites in Redmond and Sammamish.

Workers who are striking say they are struggling to keep up with the high cost of living in the Pacific Northwest. They want higher wages, and more benefits including bigger contributions to their health care and pension funds.

"We want the contractors making millions off the building boom to pay us fair wages that keep pace with the skyrocketing costs of parking, childcare, and rent,” said Evelyn Shapiro, executive secretary-treasurer for the Northwest Carpenters Union, in a press statement.

Workers are also asking for stronger harassment and discrimination protections.

In a statement on its website, the Associated General Contractors of Washington said it is "disappointed and perplexed the union is proceeding with this strike following such a robust and competitive package offer."

The association said the rejected contract proposal included a more than 20% total package (wages and benefits) increase over four years.