Sep 6, 2021
Workers in Seattle are organizing independently from their own union claiming that the Carpenters Union local 30 and The Associated General Contractors of Washington (AGC) are not representing their best interests. They want a stronger contract that keeps up with inflation and equity with other trades. And, a democratic Union, leadership accountability and less cronyism. Recorded 2021-08-05 Duration: 00:28:57
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I’m Art Esparsa. I have been a union carpenter for about 15 years now. I’ve worked all over Seattle, Bellevue, and much of the State of Washington. I’ve done concrete, framing, drywall, and high end finish work. I have a deep love and respect for our craft.
Three years ago I began a Facebook group called Western Washington Carpenters Walkout. It was in response to being shut out of the comments on Union Facebook groups as members were banned who opposed the proposal for our contract that failed to provide strong wages and fund our benefits. I started it, and went to work the next day. At work, I began getting notifications of members joining, and it rapidly grew. It went viral with the membership, growing to 1800 members. Our page was instrumental in shutting down two Tentative agreements (contract proposals) three years ago. The Union leadership sent cronies to oppose me on Facebook and to disrupt our page. The Vice President herself joined. It was very stressful knowing that I was on their minds. Because the page had “walk-out” in it, different union cronies and leaders attempted to say I was calling for a walkout. I did not. Explicitly calling for a walkout could lead to expulsion from the union for dissention. There was already retaliation against a rank and file group in Portland for using the membership lists to phone bank and get elected into local officer positions. That ended up in Federal Court after a freedom of speech lawsuit.
So on the third tentative agreement the union leadership called about 13,000 members up on a “telephone town hall.” They threatened the carpenters who were on Project Labor Agreements that they would remain on the old contract if the third Tentative Agreement was voted down. They would essentially be stuck without a wage increase. Based on a survey I took on my group, it seemed the PLA carpenters got scared and caved. The contract administrator also lied in the call and said that the Operating Engineers had already agreed to their contract and so they would not strike with us. The contract 3 years ago passed.
This year we rejected two tentative agreements already. The first by 76%, the second, by 52%. The wage increase was nearly the same. The third Tentative Agreement, what we’re voting on today, has almost zero change from the second. The entire time, the Business Agents, who work for the EST, Evelyn Shapiro, have been stumping for yes votes on jobsites. Many members feel this is voter intimidation and an abuse of power. It goes far beyond educating or making an argument. This belief was cemented while we were voting for TA2. Evelyn had a member wide Zoom call where she was on stage with several from the bargaining committee. During the call she admitted to ordering BA’s to job sites to stump for yes-votes and rolled her eyes at the idea that it was voter intimidation. When someone declared that he didn’t think they were representing the members, he was dismissed by one of her supporters. The highlight of the evening was during the call when she said “You’re nothing special.” The words were a slap in the face to every working carpenter.
Joining the No Vote were dozens and dozens of union carpenters from the Microsoft Project, one of the largest projects on the West Coast.
When Tentative Agreement 3 was announced I called for a rally in front of the AGC office (Association of General Contractors) in South Lake Union and have called for two other rallies this past week.
1) Much of the Carpenters' membership is deeply dissatisfied with the contract being offered.
We want a strong contract that keeps up with the rate of inflation and the other building trades. We are seeking out a $21 wage increase over 3 years or $7/year for the next 3 years to make up for years of falling behind as well as to catch our wages up to the other skilled trades.
2) Those of us in Seattle want full parking reimbursement or provided parking.
We are struggling to build an independent organization that is democratic to make democratic changes to our union. We want a democratic union.
We want leadership accountability and an end to cronyism in the union.
We want a union that fights for our interests and not the interests of the contractors. We want leaders who will do the same. Leaders should make a carpenter’s wage.
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Our production team and theme music https://docs.google.com/document/d/1rnPeRDB3JTrr80N_NlLmUM7nEzrRejw8-5qFYd45W5M/edit?usp=sharing