The International Longshore and Warehouse Union has long worked the waterfront up and down the West Coast.
And part of that waterfront is Terminal 46 where the Department of Transportation and its contractor will move massive amounts of dirt from downtown Seattle onto barges through a network of conveyor belts. .
But is Terminal 46 a dock or part of a construction site?
“The ILWU's primary objective is to retain its jurisdiction here in the port that it's had for over 80 years,” said Cameron Williams, President, ILWU Local 19
Pickets went up around 6 a.m. Tuesday, saying that the job of handling and loading barges is Longshore work.
Bertha, the big drilling machine, is only about 20 feet into its drilling job and moving very slowly. There hasn't been very much dirt - yet.
“We'll be in quite a jam in two weeks time when we reach the point where we need to start loading barges and dispose of material,” said Chris Dixon, project manager for the contractor, Seattle Tunnel Partners, which has a broad labor agreement with a host of construction trades.
“A way to achieve that is to have a project labor agreement,” said Dixon.
But the ILWU is not part of the agreement. A recent arbitration ruling gave the four jobs of handling the barges and the dirt to construction unions - arbitration the Longshoremen weren't part of.
Efforts to split the jobs between the Longshore and construction trades have met with resistance, neither side wanting a precedent that would hurt their members going forward.
“This work will continue. This work will get done. It will happen,” said Bot Scott, PNW Regioonal Council of Carpenters.