8,000 Carpenters end strike in Western Washington with new four-year deal

SEATTLE — Some 8,000 union Carpenters from 18 locals in Western and Central Washington ended a 9-day strike July 7 — and by week’s end had ratified a new four-year contract with Associated General Contractors of Washington by a 60 percent margin.

Carpenters walked off the job June 25 after the contractors’ association refused to adequately fund health insurance for workers and retirees. After nearly two weeks of project delays and shutdowns, the sides returned to the table to hammer out a tentative deal prior to the Fourth of July weekend.

In the end, contractors agreed to a $2.10-an-hour increase over the next two years to fully fund family health insurance and maintain health care for retirees. Contractors will add a nickel an hour in each of the next two years to the apprenticeship and training trust.

The contract will be reopened in 2005 to negotiate further wage and benefits for the final two years of the agreement. As part of the settlement the Carpenters agreed not to strike during the wage openers in the third and fourth years. If the sides are not able to bargain a deal, they will utilize the grievance procedure which involves mediation and binding arbitration, if necessary.

“Maintaining health coverage was our biggest obstacle at the bargaining table,” said Carpenter Union negotiator Dean Running, “We reached an agreement that will maintain both active and retired carpenters’ health care programs for the immediate future. Labor and management made a commitment to continue to seek economical and efficient health care.”

“This agreement was reached through your solidarity and the solidarity of the thousands of building trades workers who honored our strike. It was unfortunate that we had to resort to withholding labor, but trying to gut our Carpenters’ family health care was unacceptable,” Running said.

Associated General Contractors of Washington, the negotiating arm for construction firms, is currently negotiating contracts with Laborers, Cement Masons, Operating Engineers and Teamsters. “We stand united with the Laborers, Cement Masons, Operators and Teamsters,” the Carpenters Union said.

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