Councilmember Kshama Sawant (District 3, Central Seattle) released the following statement in solidarity with the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 302 (which includes construction crane operators), whose members just voted to go on strike after rejecting the latest contract on the Western Washington Master Labor Agreement:
“After months of negotiations, members of Operating Engineers Local 302 have elected to go on strike in response to the nickel and diming intransigence of highly profitable contractors raking in millions off the workers’ labor.
“Everyday, members of the Operating Engineers are at work before sunrise, risking their lives to make construction possible. It’s important that we as working people stand in solidarity with them as they fight for a decent contract.
“Seattle has been the construction crane capital for three years running. The building boom in the city and region has made untold profits for corporations and wealth for billionaires. And yet the workers who operate those cranes and help create the profits are increasingly unable to afford to live in the very city they are building.
“Going on strike is not easy and requires courage, determination, and collective action. But we know workers can win victories when we get organized and fight together. Let’s remember when the Teamster Sand & Gravel Drivers went on strike last year after receiving a so-called “last, best, & final” offer from their union busting bosses, they were able to win substantial increases in compensation as well as language protecting their work because they were willing to fight for it.
“Compensation and overtime pay is a safety issue, especially on construction sites. If wages are low enough that workers are forced to work overtime, there’s no penalty for the bosses who push for more and more overtime to maintain accelerated schedules. Working massive overtime is dangerous, and the safety of every worker on a construction site is linked to the safety of all other workers at the site.
“Socialist Alternative and my Council Office support the operating engineers in all their demands:
- A 15 percent pay increase over three years to at least keep up with rising living costs;
- Double time – if the bosses attempt to take the eight hour day away from workers, it should cost them;
- Paid parking – downtown parking costs around $20-$30 daily, and workers shouldn’t have to pay these exorbitant costs just to come to work.
“We wish the members of Local 302 the best in winning their demands. If they win, not only will their living conditions be improved, it will encourage other workers to also fight for their workplace rights and for an affordable city.”