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. 

Thousands are being laid off work as more construction sites come to a halt due to the ongoing concrete worker strike.

"It's our battle flag at this point," said 35-year-old Bryan Schwartz, who has been in the industry for eight years. "My whole livelihood is at stake."

Schwartz has been protesting daily outside his employer.

He’s not the only one struggling-- William Baker, a concrete mixer driver, said he’s facing hard times just like everyone else.

"Robbing Peter to pay Paul with our bills," Baker explained.

Some of these concrete mixer drivers have been on strike since mid-November.

They walked off jobs at Cadman, CalPortland/Glacier Northwest, Salmon Bay Sand & Gravel, Lehigh Cement, Stoneway Concrete and Gary Molino.  

According to Teamsters Local 174, several major projects around the Sound have come to a halt.  

"Sound Transit, Microsoft Redmond campus modernization, work on the convention center, all manner of skyscrapers going up downtown, where there's nothing happening right now," Director of Communications and Research for Teamsters Local 174, Jamie Fleming said.

"You can't build the next floor without the first floor being built with concrete," Baker said.

Joshua Viramontes, a concrete mixer driver who’s been in the industry for six years, said it’s all about teamwork.

"One hand washes the other, so if one trade is out for a certain amount of time, it stops everything," Viramontes said.

An impact Executive Secretary of the Seattle Building Trades Monty Anderson says is growing daily.

As these men and women continue their strike it’s impacting all construction trades, cement masons, ironworkers, laborers, carpenters and as the schedule gets pushed further behind electricians, plumbers and roofers will all be hit hard too.

"We're in the thousands of workers now that are out of work because of this," Anderson said.

Anderson says another 450 construction trade employees were laid off Friday morning, not including another 5,000 to 6,000 trade workers who are currently not working because of the strike.

FOX 13 asked how many more people are at risk of being laid off or losing their job because of the concrete worker strike.

"I'd say easily another 8,000 in the next month," Anderson said.

"It's rough to see people having to suffer for our fight," Baker said.

Many of the workers have friends and family working in the other trades who are now sitting at home wondering when they will be called in.

The concrete workers say all they want is what’s fair.

"We've fallen behind in the past, we just can't keep falling further behind," Schwartz said.

As they protest, many of you honk as you drive past, showing your support.

The concrete workers say it’s what keeps them from backing down.

Burien Councilman and Ahora Construction Owner, Jimmy Matta, stopped by one of the demonstrations to show his support despite being hit hard too.

"They're worth what, what they're asking for," Matta said.

He’s laid off several of his own employees shrinking his team from 88 to just two trade workers.

But it’s not just trade workers and businesses being impacted, but you – taxpayers.

"In the end, it's the people that work for a living and as taxpayers are footing the bill," Anderson said.

It's a fight workers want resolved, fast.

"Just bargain with us," Schwartz asked of the companies. "Everybody wants to go back to work."  

FOX 13 reached out to the six companies involved, the spokesperson representing five of them sent us the statement they shared previously but declined to comment today.

"Glacier Northwest, Stoneway Concrete, Salmon Bay Sand & Gravel and Cadman, Inc. have provided the Teamsters with the best package we have ever offered which includes a 17.6% pay increase over the next three years, improves pension contributions, provides excellent medical benefits, and a generous retiree medical insurance rarely found in other labor contracts.

Mediation occurred on January 20, 2022, with the FMCS and concluded at the end of the day at the direction of FMCS without a resolution. The Companies remain committed to the FMCS process as the best way to reach an agreement. A follow-up meeting has yet to be scheduled."

We also reached out to Sound Transit and Microsoft regarding the projects who said they had no comment at the time.

The Seattle Building Trades says they anticipate another thousand employees to be laid off on Monday.

A number that can keep growing even if concrete workers return to work tomorrow – the backlog in projects is increasing by the day. 

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