A mediation between local concrete companies and hundreds of striking mixer drivers ended early Thursday evening without a resolution, raising the prospect that the months-long dispute could continue to disrupt Seattle-area construction with project delays and layoffs.

Union officials representing about 300 striking drivers called Thursday’s meeting an “unmitigated failure,” and suggested that the strike could drag on for weeks.

A spokesperson for four of the concrete companies confirmed the talks had ended “without a resolution to the open labor agreement.”

Jennifer Disotell, head of the Northwest District of Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, which facilitated the talks, declined to give details, but confirmed that the two parties met Thursday with Commissioner Roger Moore and Regional Director Beth Schindler and that the decision to end the talks came at the direction of Moore and Schindler. Disotell stressed that the talks could resume and that “the door remains open for further conversation.”

The strike began on a smaller scale in November, then expanded in early December to 330 workers for six companies. The two sides had not bargained since the strike began.

The dispute has slowed construction projects across the Seattle area and led to the layoffs of hundreds of other construction workers amid a building boom. Because concrete is one of the most essential building materials in many parts of the construction process, a lack of concrete can grind some projects to a halt. 


The strike is the latest to hit the region’s construction industry as a labor shortage has given workers new leverage. Members of the Northwest Carpenters Union were on strike for nearly three weeks last fall. The carpenters, whose pay ranged from roughly $47 to $48 an hour, approved a contract that included a $2.26 wage increase each year. 

The top hourly rate for mixer drivers is about $37 an hour, according to the union.

The drivers union, Teamsters Local 174, said the employers “offered no movement” and did not offer a new contract proposal during talks Thursday.

The concrete companies declined to share details of the meeting or their latest offer, but a statement Friday from four of the companies reiterated an earlier claim that the companies had presented the drivers with “the best package we have ever offered.”

The concrete companies “are committed to the FMCS process as the best way to reach an agreement,” said a statement from the companies.

As the strike has delayed projects and spurred layoffs across the region, political and business leaders have tried to persuade the union and companies to make a deal.


In a Tuesday statement, seven large general contractors with operations in the Seattle area urged the two sides to reach a settlement and warned that the strike had already caused substantial economic damage.

“Currently, thousands of tradespeople are sitting idle and unable to work due to this strike action,” wrote the contractors, including GLY, Sellen and Turner, in a letter to both sides Wednesday.

“I don’t think we ever thought that they would come out of it saying, ‘hey, we’ve got a deal,'” said Bill Ketcham, general manager of the Seattle office of Turner Construction. “But you would have hoped that the sides would’ve come out and said, ‘hey, we made some really good progress today’… but instead, what it sounds like is both sides are still entrenched.”

Drivers also said they were disappointed by the failure of the talks Thursday.

“I figured they would at least try to convince the mediator they were here to make progress, and would pay some lip service towards movement on our big priorities, but they didn’t even bother making a proposal to put us back to work,” said Schuyler Brazier, a driver at Stoneway Concrete, in a statement.

King County Executive Dow Constantine has tried to persuade both sides to settle, a spokesperson said last week. A spokesperson for Gov. Jay Inslee said the state Department of Transportation “has been monitoring the impacts of the strike and keeping our office apprised, but the governor is not involved in the negotiations at this point.”


Neither side will share the exact terms of their negotiations. The union says its members are pushing for better pay and benefits, and that the companies have offered a deal that falls short of terms other building trades have received.

Concrete companies said their earlier offer includes a 17.6% pay increase over three years and “improves pension contributions,” among other things.

No further negotiations are scheduled, according to the union and the concrete companies. But pressure to settle is clearly mounting on both sides as the dispute threatens to halt more construction projects and put more workers on unemployment.

Although Teamsters officials have said other building trades support the strike, the prospect of hundreds more layoffs of carpenters, ironworkers, operators and laborers will continue to ramp up pressure to reach a deal.

Strike-related work delays at some Sound Transit projects and at the Washington state Convention Center expansion have already led to 200 layoffs, project officials said last week.

About 50 electrical workers who are part of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 46 have been laid off related to the strike and “we’re expecting that number to grow,” said Ryan Paddock, business representative for the local, which has about 4,200 members. “A lot of jobs that were supposed to be starting in January and February are now delayed until March, April or beyond, depending on when this gets resolved.”


Mixer drivers could also lose health insurance next month because their coverage is based on hours worked in a given month, according to the union.

“Livelihoods are on the line for thousands of workers,” Teamsters Local 174 Secretary-Treasurer Rick Hicks said in a statement Thursday.

Concrete companies are also likely feeling mounting pressure from builders who have contracts for cement deliveries. “They all have contractual obligations to us, so they have a significant amount of pressure on them,” said Turner’s Ketcham. “So every one of them is on notice.”

Even with the risk of layoffs, Paddock said his union backs the strike. “We’re worried, but supportive,” he said. “Nobody wants to be laid off because of it, but you also want the Teamsters to get a good contract for their membership.”