SEATTLE — The deadline has come and gone to end a concrete drivers' strike in time to complete work on the West Seattle Bridge by mid-summer.
The Teamsters Local 174 union representing concrete mixer drivers and cement plant employees has been in a standoff with four concrete companies since late 2021.
As the strike continues, it's having an impact on a number of construction projects in the area, including the West Seattle Bridge. The bridge closed in March of 2020.
Normally big construction projects have wiggle room built-in. However, in the case of the West Seattle bridge, that wiggle room - also known as “float” - is gone.
The city promised to have the bridge open by the middle of this year, which would likely mean finishing construction sometime in July.
The Seattle Department of Transportation said Tuesday its plans to wrap up work in more than four months are in trouble.
Why are around 30 truckloads of concrete so important? Heather Marks, the director of the West Seattle Bridge Project, said it takes months for the concrete to cure.
“And there’s work we need to do after the concrete is in place,” said Marx.
That concrete, which is very strong and specialized, is critical to building the blocks used to anchor and support some 46 miles of heavy cables inside the bridge. That cabling can’t go in until the concrete is poured and set.
Marx said other weeks of float were lost due to COVID and the blast of cold snowy weather in January.
Yet she said other work can continue. Platforms are now set up in the outer sections of the bridge to allow contractors to inject epoxy to fix cracks, then cover those sections of the bridge with strong carbon fiber fabric to strengthen the surface of the existing concrete bridge.
“So we can do a lot of carbon fiber reinforcement and a lot of epoxy crack injection before we need the concrete," said Marx.
In a statement, the four concrete companies being struck by Teamsters local 174 say they have received a temporary restraining order to “now be able to produce concrete for these governmental agency projects.”
Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell's office provided the following statement regarding mediation during the strike:
"While the City encourages parties to return to mediation and reach a fair agreement, concrete delivery companies do not sign Letters of Assent to the CWA, so neither the companies nor their workers are bound by any terms and conditions of the CWA which includes the No Strike provision."