SEATTLE — In the first of its kind proposal, King County is seeking contract bids from suppliers to help continue construction projects as the concrete union strike continues in its third month.
The ongoing strike of concrete truckers and drivers is slowing down or stopping major projects in the Seattle region, including a possible delay to reopening the West Seattle Bridge.
On Wednesday, King County Executive Dow Constantine announced the county is seeking one or more suppliers of concrete building materials to make sure projects can resume without further delays and disruptions.
King County published a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) this week to guarantee a supply of concrete so it can continue construction projects over the next three to six years. The RFQ is the first time the county has requested proposals directly from suppliers, according to the county.
In order to get the contract, an agreement must be in place that prevents work stoppages and emp
loyer lockouts to prevent impacts on construction projects in the future.
Winning bidders will have the opportunity to lock in a contract with the county worth $28 million to $35 million for the first three to four years.
"With transit improvements stalled and construction sites gone quiet, the impact of the labor dispute is leaving people out of work and taxpayers suffering delays in the critical infrastructure that the region needs built now," said Constantine. "Our proposal today seeks to protect the public's interest by providing economic certainty to suppliers who treat workers fairly and keep our infrastructure projects moving forward”
King County and Seattle leaders implored companies and the union representing concrete workers to come to an agreement as soon as possible.
Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell said the strike could cause major delays to the West Seattle Bridge reconstruction if it continues past Feb. 20. City officials said in November that the bridge was expected to reopen mid-July 2022.
"While the Seattle Department of Transportation, contractors, and community partners have worked tirelessly to keep the West Seattle Bridge reopening on track for mid-2022, this continued strike threatens to delay that schedule," said Mayor of Seattle Bruce Harrell. "For an on-time opening, concrete companies and workers must return to mediation and reach a fair agreement."
Teamsters Local No. 174, the union representing workers, said construction companies are trying to force a package on workers that would be significantly less compared to what other construction workers are receiving. Wages, healthcare and retirement would decrease in compensation over the next three years, when taking inflation into consideration.
Four concrete companies said in a statement that they've provided the Teamsters with the best package they have ever offered, which includes a nearly 18% pay increase over the next three years.
A harsh impact of the strike is Seattle's halt on construction, with vital concrete workers choosing to not work.
The Washington State Department of Transportation, the city of Seattle and King County warned in January if the strike continues, it could delay critical ongoing projects including the construction of roads, bridges, light rail guideways and more.
Sound Transit said the strike is slowing construction of the light rail extension to Lynnwood, the Eastside, downtown Redmond and Federal Way.
The union said it's willing to talk through and work around key disagreements in the negotiations but said the concrete companies are not budging.