Several projects that had been sitting quiet since last week sprang back to life Thursday as the local union representing striking workers reached deals with specific contractors bargaining independently from the management group overseeing the master labor negotiations.
The Seattle-area construction union that has been on strike since last week has begun signing individual agreements with specific contractors, sending some of its members back to work Thursday and restarting some projects that had been stalled.
The International Union of Operating Engineers Local 302, which includes crane operators, pavers, surveyors and other workers, has been on strike since Aug. 21, slowing or halting dozens of projects throughout Western Washington.
The union began meeting this week with the Associated General Contractors of Washington, which represents most contractors in the region to negotiate a new deal, and had not reported any progress.
But Thursday, some cranes in Seattle and Bellevue swung back into use after standing idle for days, and projects that had been slowed sprung back to life.
In a statement late Thursday, the union said it had begun signing independent deals with “several” contractors to go around the master labor agreement with the Associated General Contractors group.
“Many more meetings and ratification votes are scheduled” with other contractors, Daren Konopaski, business manager for the union, said in a statement. Workers on jobs for contractors that sign those side deals are cleared to go back to work immediately, he said.
The union described the deals with the individual contractors as including more financial compensation for its members above and beyond what the Associated General Contractors had offered.
It’s not clear how much extra money is included in the side deals, or how many projects are affected. As has been the case throughout the labor dispute, the union and the general contractors group did not return messages seeking comment.
Cranes were spotted back in use at an Onni high-rise apartment project in South Lake Union and at a Trammell Crow Residential apartment project in Lower Queen Anne on Thursday morning. Neither Onni nor Trammell Crow Residential responded to requests for comment.
City officials in Bellevue said late Thursday that at least three projects that had been slowed due to the strike were back up and running.
Contractors dealing with the labor dispute faced cost increases the longer their projects sat delayed.
Union members had previously rejected two offers from the Associated General Contractors after their contract expired in June. The most recent offer included a 15.9 percent pay increase and a 13 percent fringe benefit increase over three years. Members of the union now make $37.70 to $43.13 an hour.