UPDATE (Sept. 28, 2021) — The Northwest Carpenters Union has resumed sanctioned roving strike picket lines at multiple projects in the region, but not at PLA job sites where Carpenters continue to work.
Union says unsanctioned picketing by Sawant, others has placed it in legal jeopardy
SEATTLE (Sept. 24, 2021) — The Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters — an independent union that is not affiliated with the AFL-CIO or the Washington State Labor Council — has been on strike since Sept. 16 against Puget Sound-area employers. Its members have rejected multiple contract proposals from the Associated General Contractors, citing insufficient wage increases and other concerns.
The strike has halted Carpenters’ work at hundreds of projects across the region, but not where Project Labor Agreements are in place, such as Climate Pledge Arena and Sound Transit light rail construction. Under PLAs, contractors guarantee that all work will pay prevailing wages and union-scale benefits in exchange for the trades unions agreeing to resolve labor disputes without work stoppages.
Since Sept. 16, the Northwest Carpenters Union has sanctioned roving strike picket lines at multiple projects in the region, but not at PLA job sites where Carpenters continue to work. However, a group of rank-and-file members plus Seattle socialist councilmember Kshama Sawant and her followers have been trying to broaden the strike by establishing unsanctioned “wildcat” pickets and shutting down additional job sites. Now the union says it is facing legal consequences from employers for these unsanctioned actions, so the Northwest Carpenters Union released the following statement Thursday announcing that, although the strike continues, the union will temporarily cease all picketing today:
We are sorry to report that roaming protests headed by a small, unsanctioned group of protestors, that includes union and non-union members, have led to the temporary closure of all Northwest Carpenters Union picket activities starting tomorrow, Friday, September 24.
Activities reported to NWCU have been near altercations, threats of violence, illegal picketing activity, harassment of union members walking on sanctioned picket lines, and threats of legal actions from multiple employers regarding wildcat strikes; all of which leaves NWCU open to liability.
Our priority is protecting the physical safety of our picketing members, who are reporting real and increasing threats of personal violence and property destruction from those participating in unsanctioned protests. Hundreds of our members have participated in highly successful, sanctioned, legal pickets this week and last week, at increasing picket sites every day, marching as one. We are disappointed that the actions of a few are getting in the way of our members’ right to strike.
Because of the actions taken today, we have been contacted by legal counsel from several employers who are taking actions against NWCU. In addition to potential safety issues, these wildcat actions, and roaming protests, conducted in the name of union carpenters, would likely drain union resources (union members’ dues), and threaten the livelihood of our members.
The union has scheduled several meetings today among its members to explain the situation and hear their concerns, but the statement emphasizes, “We are still on strike and members who are required to withhold their labor will continue withholding labor until we have an agreement to consider.”
Look for updates at www.nwcarpenters.org.