A new idea: King County Public Concrete

A concrete strike has delayed many projects, from the West Seattle Bridge to light rail for months. There are four big concrete companies that do most of the work in King County. Now, the county wants to look at creating a fifth company owned by the government.

You could call it “King County Public Concrete.” It would negotiate its own labor contracts. That means it wouldn’t get held up when private concrete companies fail to reach a labor agreement with their workers.

Today, the King County Council voted unanimously to study the idea, which is being promoted by King County Executive Dow Constantine. In a public hearing, no one testified against it.

Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff laid out the stakes, listing off projects that have been delayed by the strike, which include projects north, south and east of Seattle.

“At this point, Sound Transit projects have missed deliveries of more than 42,000 cubic yards of concrete. To put that in perspective, that would be a line of concrete trucks running end to end, 28 miles long, all the way from Mountlake Terrace all the way to Sea-Tac Airport.”

He said the agency’s contractors had laid off 240 workers so far, and were preparing to lay off 140 more in the coming weeks.

Mike Walker is with the local Teamsters chapter. In a phone call after the hearing, he told KUOW his union looks forward to negotiating a contract with the county.

“Yeah, absolutely. I’m good with it,” Walker said.

Walker said contract disputes are normal, but accused the region’s concrete companies of being unwilling to negotiate.

KUOW called one of the concrete companies, Salmon Bay Sand and Gravel, for comment, but did not receive a response.

Even if the county decides to pursue the plan next winter, backers of the idea say it’s not going to help resolve the current strike. It’s really about preparing the county for the next one.

Article Source: KUOW