SEATTLE — For the first time in nearly two decades, hundreds of Washington carpenters walked off the job Thursday, slowing work at job sites and calling for better pay.
With a 56 percent to 44 percent vote during the weekend, members of the Northwest Carpenters Union rejected a tentative contract deal and authorized a strike. Picket lines were planned for early Thursday morning.
The strike is expected to halt carpenters’ work at hundreds of construction projects across the region, ranging from sites with a few carpenters to large projects, according to the union.
The effects of the strike may appear muted to the general public. Most of the city’s biggest projects, such as Climate Pledge Arena and Sound Transit light rail construction, have agreements in place preventing a strike. At those sites, union carpenters will keep working and pay a portion of their wages into a strike fund to support those who walked out. About 2,000 of the union’s roughly 12,000 members work at sites where they can strike, according to the union.
Carpenters say they’re pushing for bigger pay increases in their next contract to keep up with the cost of living.
The strike also reveals divisions in the union, whose members have rejected four tentative agreements this year. In the latest vote, some rank-and-file members rallied against the proposal while others pushed for a “yes” vote. Ahead of the strike, some members questioned why the union wasn’t planning to picket more sites and union leadership warned members against engaging in unauthorized wildcat strikes and sick-outs.