Longshoremen Take Down Picket Line; Bertha to Resume Digging

Sep 17, 2013

The tunnel-boring machine known as Big Bertha will resume digging after longshoremen agreed to remove their picket line which had been in place since Aug. 20.

Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday said the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 19 agreed to let the project resume despite an unresolved labor dispute with the project contractor, Seattle Tunnel Partners, over four jobs.

“I have been increasingly frustrated by this situation and I know that Washingtonians feel this same frustration to the nth degree,” said Inslee. “I told them (both parties) this had gone on long enough, and I wanted Bertha digging again, and soon.”

The longshoremen had said Seattle Tunnel Partners signed an agreement in April promising that four longshoremen would load dirt from the tunnel onto trucks and barges. Then last month, the union said the contractor has hired other tradespeople for the work.

"So that’s essentially why we’re here picketing," said Cameron Williams, president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 19. "They’re not implementing the contract they signed onto."

Seattle Tunnel Partners project manager Chris Dixon said the matter already went to arbitration and the longshoremen lost. 

The parties continue to seek a permanent solution.

"This has been proven to be a difficult issue despite the small number of jobs involved. There are principles involved that are important to all sides that need to be respected," the governor said. "I will soon be speaking with the parties again on how we can solve this issue."