UPDATE (June 19, 2021) — IBEW 46 reports that its Inside Wire members have ratified the tentative agreement in a record-setting turnout for a contract vote.
UPDATE (June 11, 2021) — The following message is from Sean Bagsby, Business Manager / Financial Secretary for IBEW 46:
“Early this (Friday) morning, IBEW 46 and NECA reached a tentative agreement for our Inside Wire Unit. As a result, there will be NO work stoppage. The membership will have a ratification vote next week. Details of the new agreement will be released soon… Thank you for all of your support!”
NECA may force work stoppage on Friday
IBEW 46 members ready to walk out over ‘quality-of-life’ issues
KENT, Wash. (June 10, 2021) — With little progress in negotiations for a fair contract, the Puget Sound chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) may force a work stoppage of thousands of members of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 46 in western Washington beginning Friday.
IBEW Local 46 members turned out in record numbers and voted to authorize a strike prior to the contract’s expiration on May 31. With the expiration of its Master Construction agreements affecting more than 6,000 IBEW 46 members in King, Kitsap, Jefferson and Clallam counties, the union delivered a 10-day strike notice to NECA on June 1.
Although negotiations continue, the two sides are reportedly far apart. If an agreement is not reached by midnight on Thursday, a strike will begin Friday that would create a major disruption on construction projects throughout King County and the Olympic Peninsula. IBEW 46 has received strike sanction from area labor federations and building and construction trades councils.
“As this stage of the process, NECA still refuses to recognize that the dedicated, hard-working employees that make them so profitable deserve a better quality of life, and time with their families like everyone else,” said Sean Bagsby, Business Manager / Financial Secretary for IBEW 46. “The reason why we have the BEST electrical contractors, is because they have the BEST workers! Our work is hard, dangerous, and extremely demanding. When we make mistakes, people can be severely hurt or killed. The very nature of our industry is stressful and dangerous.”
Bagsby said the most important economic issues still on the table are what the union considers quality-of-life issues: paid time off and holidays, paid parking, and overall wages and fringe benefits.
“After what these workers have been through in the past 14-plus months, they need a contract that respects their work and their families’ quality of life,” he said.
In what was a record turnout for an IBEW 46 strike authorization vote on May 27, members voted by a more than 94 percent to approve a strike, which could begin Friday if negotiators can’t reach an agreement.
“It’s insulting to hear that if we want PTO, in the form of paid holidays, we made the ‘wrong career choice’,” said IBEW 46 member AM (names are being withheld to avoid employer retaliation). “We deserve quality of life benefits like 89 percent of other union workers.”
“It’s a no-brainer that employees need paid or provided parking, and to retain the best employees we should receive holiday pay!” said WH.
Although there are several classifications of IBEW members with negotiations in process, the biggest single agreement is for 4,200 Inside Wire members. These are the essential workers who specialize in connecting their commercial customers’ electrical systems to the outside power source, and then distributing that power throughout the facility. It’s demanding, technical work that requires years of training, certification, proficiency and attention to detail — for the safety of all the buildings’ occupants and for the electricians themselves.
In addition, there are several other IBEW 46 construction units in negotiations. These groups include more than 140 Residential Electricians, over 130 Construction Stock people, and Lighting Fixture maintenance workers. These hardworking electrical workers and support crews are vital to the many construction and tenant improvement projects you see and drive by every day.
Early on in negotiations, IBEW 46 had made it clear that the union wasn’t looking for a fight, just a fair contract that shows respect for these highly skilled workers.
Stay tuned to IBEW 46’s Twitter feed and The Stand for developments.