Washington carpenters vote to accept new contract following strike
Update, Oct. 12: Members of the Northwest Carpenters Union voted to approve the new contract, the union announced Monday.
The union said 5,318 members cast ballots, with 53.65% voting to accept the contract, and 46.35% voting no.
“Our members fought hard for these important improvements in the contract, putting their livelihoods and their bodies on the picket line for 13 days of striking at dozens of job sites across Western Washington," Evelyn Shapiro, the union's secretary-treasurer, said in a news release. "Union carpenters build everything you see, and we work hard to earn living wages to support our families, and benefits that will be there for us when our backs and our knees give out.”
Earlier story: Thousands of carpenters in Western Washington put their strike on hold and returned to work Wednesday after reaching a tentative agreement with the Associated General Contractors of Washington.
The Northwest Carpenters Union began their strike Sept. 16.
Over the course of three years, the new contract would provide a more than 15% increase in wages and benefits, or $10.02 per hour; retro pay from June 1 until the contract ratification date; a new parking zone in the First Hill neighborhood; $1.50 per hour parking subsidy in certain areas of downtown Seattle, and a new parking zone in Bellevue effective in 2022.
At a news conference in front of a Google construction site on Wednesday morning, Ryan Case, a carpenter for 15 years and a member of the bargaining team, urged others to vote in favor of the new contract.
“I want my son to know that standing up for what’s right and standing up for yourself and your union brothers and sisters can be tough, but it’s worth it,” Case said.
“We think the majority of our members will approve this agreement. It’s a good agreement that takes care of our brothers and sisters for years to come,” he continued. “I know the vast majority of us are really glad to be back to work.”
Comments on the union’s page on the social-media site Facebook, however, seemed to indicate that not everyone was excited about the new contract. Some urged members to reject the contract.
Union spokesperson Jeanie-Marie Price said there hasn’t been a consensus among members about what an acceptable wage increase would entail, but the last rejected contract increased wages and benefits by about $13.25 per hour over four years. The union had previously rejected four contracts.
Carpenters say they are struggling to keep up with the high cost of living in the Pacific Northwest. The union approved the strike with a 56% to 44% vote. But members have been divided and concerns about safety and legal action led to the temporary closure of all Northwest Carpenters Union picket activities after some members participated in wildcat strikes — picket activities at construction sites that have non-strike agreements in place.
Roughly 12,000 members of the Northwest Carpenters Union will vote on the contract. A simple majority is needed to ratify the contract.