King County proposes first-ever concrete supplier contract amid ongoing labor strike

Billions of dollars in construction projects in the region are in jeopardy due to ongoing labor disputes. With bargaining at a standstill, dozens of major contractors, developers and subcontractors are waiting for talks to resume so they can get back to job sites. 

On Wednesday, King County Executive Dow Constantine, Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell and area leaders announced a plan to get concrete flowing again. In the county’s published Request for Qualifications (RFQ), $28-$35 million is available for concrete supply companies to place a bid to contract with the county. This is the first time the county is requesting proposals directly from construction material suppliers.

"For our general contracts—if we contract with a company to build a project, we pay them well and we ask that company to enter into an agreement with their workers and the labor organizations so that the company won’t lock them out and the unions won’t strike. And because of that, we’re able to count on that company and those workers continuing to deliver every day on our construction projects," said Constantine. 

The RFQ funds will support work for the next three to four years, hoping at least one construction material supplier bids on the county’s offer. Constantine said there could also be an opportunity to renew the RFQ.

"Within these contracts, successful applicants will need agreements in place that ensure our projects will not be delayed in the future by work stoppages or by employer lockouts," said Constantine.

The battle between companies, workers and unions have halted private and public developments for more than three months.

"Most critical project is the West Seattle Bridge. All things considered, we certainly would have had that completed by mid-year 2022. Based on our subject-matter experts at SDOT, we anticipate that if the current labor dispute is not settled in a few weeks around February 20, this will have a significant delay on the project," said Harrell. 

Thousands of trade workers laid off, more to come following concrete worker strike

The fight for wage increases for concrete workers started three months ago, but as the strike continues, Washingtonians are seeing and feeling the effects it’s having. 

While many projects sit untouched across the region, construction within Sound Transit is moving at a very slow pace.

"Up in Lynwood, out in Federal Way, down in Kent, out in Bellevue and out in Redmond in some of the largest capital projects this region has known—all of our Sound Transit expansion projects. They’re not dead in the water, but they’re slowing down," said Peter Rogoff, Sound Transit CEO. "Every one of these projects is set to be delivered in the next two years. But, the delivery dates for those projects are becoming increasingly in question the longer this strike stretches on."

Members of Teamsters Local 174 said the situation should not have gotten to a point where construction zones sit empty.

"We didn’t want to stop working, but when you stop negotiating that’s what happens. We’re in a fight for our future. A lot of this has to do with our retiree program, for medical and fair wage increase that keeps us in line with all the other trades and our pension," said Jerry Plyman, a union member.

Now with the RFQ offer from the county, some workers said the proposal might be too good for companies to pass up, potentially leaving them no choice but to bring workers back to the job site.

"If one company splinters off to take that deal, they’re going to have to bring us back on to haul the concrete," said Plyman with a grin.

FOX 13 News requested comment from some of the major construction companies about the county’s proposal and is awaiting a response.

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