By Mike Baker, August 20, 2013
SEATTLE — Longshoremen began
picketing Tuesday at the site of Seattle's $3.1 billion tunnel project
after claiming four jobs along the waterfront have been improperly given
to workers with other unions.
A couple dozen members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union blocked access to the waterfront area where the four workers would be operating. ILWU
Local 19 President Cameron Williams said the mobilization will continue
until there is movement toward giving the work to the longshoremen.
at the tunnel project began just a few weeks ago, as the world's
largest tunneling machine started digging a pathway that will ultimately
carry vehicles under downtown. The longshoremen are upset about four
jobs that involve loading excavated dirt onto a barge.
said the ILWU members are upset because they believe a contract signed
earlier this year gives them the barge-loading jobs. ILWU workers view
the waterfront positions as their territory.
Chris Dixon, project
manager for contractor Seattle Tunnel Partners, said the contract signed
in April was done under duress because the ILWU was refusing to offload
the boring machine unless officials agreed to provide them the four
jobs now in dispute. An arbitrator ruled last month that the jobs should
go to building trades workers under a larger project labor agreement,
Officials aren't planning to begin barge work for
about two more weeks, but Dixon said there is some work that needs to be
done along the waterfront over the coming days. Dixon said he's not
sure what the next steps will be.
"We don't want to escalate the
issue," Dixon said. "We're just kind of seeing how things transpire over
the next day or two, instead of having some kind of immediate reaction
to the situation that would worsen the situation."
boring project is expected to take about 14 months to make a nearly
2-mile journey, with the machine surfacing near south Lake Union.
Vehicles are expected to begin using the tunnel by late 2015, and the
removal of the viaduct will be part of a larger project to renovate the