Longshore union local pickets Bertha tunneling site

SEATTLE — Workers from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 19 say they will continue to picket the site of the SR 99 tunnel construction project.

Dozens of union members blocked the construction entrance to the tunnel near Pier 46 Tuesday. They say they have a contract with Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP) to load the dirt and soil from the tunnel project onto barges, but STP has given those four jobs to another union.

"The ILWU's primary job is to retain its jurisdiction here in the port that its had for over 80 years," says Local 19 President Cameron Williams.

STP says the contract with the longshoremen was signed in duress, to make sure the tunnel boring machine would be offloaded. STP says the contract issue went to arbitration in July, and it was decided the work could be assigned to the Building Trades.

Building Trades' workers did not cross the picket line Tuesday, so planned work on the WSDOT-leased portion of T46 was not done. STP says there was not a major impact, but there could be if the protest continues.

They released a statement that reads in part: "In two weeks, after Labor Day, we expect tunneling production to increase dramatically, at which time we will need to use barges to haul the material from T46 instead of trucks. A picket at that time would create a significant impact to our tunneling operations."