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Labor Dispute Halts Some Work on Seattle's Tunnel Project

Ashley Gross

Seattle's waterfront tunnel project is huge. At its height, it's supposed to create almost 3,900 jobs. In a move that shows how important each one of those jobs is, longshoremen headed out to a picket line to protect four of them. 

And that labor dispute over those four jobs has caused some work on the project to grind to a halt. 

The longshoremen say the contractor, Seattle Tunnel Partners, signed an agreement in April promising that four longshoremen would load dirt from the tunnel onto trucks and barges. Now the union says the contractor has hired other tradespeople for the work.

"So that’s essentially why we’re here picketing," said Cameron Williams, president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 19. "They’re not implementing the contract they signed onto."

But Seattle Tunnel Partners project manager Chris Dixon says the matter already went to arbitration and the longshoremen lost. 

"When you get a decision from an arbitrator after an arbitration hearing, you’re legally bound to comply with that," Dixon said. 

The longshoremen say they’ll continue picketing until they reach a resolution. The construction tradespeople are refusing to cross the picket line to load the dirt. So that means dirt may start to pile up next to the tunnel site until an agreement is reached. 

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.
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