City construction projects start rolling again after settlement of operators’ strike

It was not your imagination or impatience with the typical plodding pace of street or sidewalk construction playing tricks on you.

No, the city of Auburn’s 15th Street Northwest-Northeast Pavement Preservation project really was stalled, as were many city-initiated and private projects that had been scheduled but were not yet started in cities and counties throughout Western Washington.

The wrench in the gears was the International Union of Operating Engineers’ strike over wages, hours and working conditions.

Where some news outlets had called it “a crane operators strike” restricted to the city of Seattle before it was settled last week, the walkout was in fact much more widespread, affecting asphalt, and concrete plant operators, concrete pump truck operators, loader operators and excavation and backhoe operators across Western Washington.

Ingrid Gaub, public works director for the city of Auburn, said the upshot was that the city couldn’t get asphalt, concrete or gravel materials, nor could it find the operators it needed to operate the equipment, a situation that stopped in their tracks several projects in addition to the work on 15th Street Northeast and Northwest.

“Basically, we’re talking about huge portion of basically anybody who is anybody in the operators category within the King County area, but also in Clallam, Jefferson Mason, Grays Harbor, Kitsap, Island, San Juan, Snohomish, and Kittitas counties,” said Gaub.

According to a statement on the IOUE website on Sept. 6, a third “tentative agreement was reached for the Western WA Master Labor Agreement, and members are to stand down on all picketing actions and return to regular work status effective tomorrow Sept. 7.”

Details of the agreement have not yet been released.

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