With No Concrete Labor Deal, King County Explores Alternatives

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KING COUNTY, WA — King County will consider developing public concrete infrastructure, more than four months into a labor dispute that has slowed or stopped work on major projects across the region.

More than 300 concrete workers have been on strike over working conditions for more than four months, with employers unwilling to budge in bargaining a new contract. The resulting delays have impacted jobs and projects across King County, including Sound Transit’s light rail expansion work, vital West Seattle Bridge repairs, the Washington State Convention Center expansion, State Route 520 restorations and a slate of other infrastructure work.

The striking workers include mixer and dump truck drivers employed by four companies with facilities in Seattle, Bellevue, Redmond and Issaquah.

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The labor dispute has continued, despite mounting pressure from county and city officials for company leaders to return to the negotiating table and a first-of-its-kind financial incentive to end the deadlock. Earlier this month, Teamsters Local 174 members offered to return to work in Seattle as a “good-faith gesture,” but the union said one employer continued to delay operations.

Noting continued uncertainty over the availability of concrete, King County Executive Dow Constantine pitched legislation Tuesday that would authorize the county to join Sound Transit, the University of Washington, the City of Seattle and the Port of Seattle in a study to measure the feasibility of standing up public manufacturing facilities to prevent similar disruptions in the future.

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“Clearly, the local concrete industry is failing the people of King County, and I won’t let our region’s infrastructure hand in the balance,” Constantine said in a statement. “For the future of our infrastructure and our economy, the public sector must act to secure a reliable supply of concrete, even if that means manufacturing our own. While this won’t solve the stalemate today, we will begin the work to ensure taxpayers aren’t put in this position again, and to keep our region moving forward.”

If approved by the King County Council, the study would perform a cost-benefit analysis of the county manufacturing its own concrete, along with identifying potential partners and locations for county-run facilities. Constantine’s motion had early support from Sound Transit, the Port of Seattle, council chair Claudia Balducci, Redmond Mayor Angela Birney and Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell.

“The many critical infrastructure projects on hold today, along with even more on the way, have cemented the need for reliable concrete production,” Harrell said. “New projects and major infrastructure investments are an opportunity to reshape our City and our region for the better — further uncertainty driven by concrete manufacturing concerns cannot be allowed to detail this potential.”

If approved by the council, a full report on the feasibility study will be due by Dec. 1.

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