Sawant congratulates union carpenters for ‘raising the prominence of the fully-paid-parking demand through their brave, rank-and-file-led strike,’ vows to support all construction workers in the fight for paid parking
SEATTLE – Councilmember Kshama Sawant (District 3, Central Seattle), chair of the Council’s Sustainability and Renters Rights Committee, today unveiled her legislation requiring contractors in Seattle to pay for the cost of parking for construction workers and called on the City Council to swiftly enact it.
Sawant’s bill would mandate that contractors reimburse 100 percent of the parking expenses of construction workers, many of whom currently have to shell out $100 to $150 a week, or $6,000 a year or more, for parking near downtown Seattle job sites.
“Shamefully, construction industry contractors, who have made billions in profits off the backs of workers, have refused to cover the cost of parking for carpenters and many other construction workers,” Sawant said. She noted that parking costs were one of the major reasons for the recent rank-and-file led strike of 2,000 union carpenters, along with the demand for family-supporting wages, fully-funded benefits, and improved protections against workplace harassment. “So we will demand that the City Council pass my bill to require that construction contractors pay 100 percent of all parking costs for all construction workers, beginning immediately,” she said.
Sawant transmitted the legislation yesterday to the office of Council President Lorena González, and to all Councilmembers. Sawant urged González to allow a Council debate and vote on the bill this month. She also has shared the bill with rank-and-file construction workers, who were consulted closely in the drafting of the legislation, and with union leaders.
Sawant urged construction workers and other community members to continue signing her petition demanding that the City Council adopt fully-paid parking for construction workers. More than 1,000 people have signed the petition, including hundreds of workers at downtown construction sites.
Construction workers are forced to drive their personal vehicles to job sites because they are traveling long distances, often 90 miles or more and often very early in the morning before regular bus and train service has started, and are required to bring their tools, hardhats, safety harnesses, and other equipment to work.
Some building trades union members, including Sheetmetal workers, Plumbers and Pipefitters, and Ironworkers, have won paid parking in their union contracts, demonstrating that contractors can indeed provide free parking. However, many contractors do not provide free parking, or they limit reimbursement for other construction workers.
“As an apprentice, I am sent to jobs without any input on what job or what start time. This often means being sent to somewhere in Seattle with a 6 or 6:30 am start time. Even when I want to take transit I often can’t, given the early starting time. This means the only option is to drive,” said Joey Hann, a member of IBEW 46 who lives in Tacoma. “The $20-30 a day for parking really takes a significant bite out of take home pay. Not having paid parking can keep people out of the trades and apprenticeships, and there’s a critical shortage of workers in the trades as it is. That’s why I support Councilmember Sawant’s legislation and urge the rest of the City Council to vote YES on it,” Hann said.
“For years carpenters and other construction workers have been expected by contractors to pay for parking so that they can work in a city that’s no longer theirs. We are paying a hefty tax to work. We are not asking for anything unreasonable. We just want a little help from our bosses so we can park and do our jobs. It shouldn’t be the workers’ burden to bear,” said Arthur Esparza, a member of Carpenters Local 30.
Sawant congratulated rank-and-file carpenters, who struck beginning Sept. 16, courageously rejecting 4 tentative agreements, and earlier this week narrowly accepted a new contract proposal by the Associated General Contractors of Washington. The burden of parking costs was a big issue in the strike. “Credit must go to the rank-and-file union carpenters for raising the prominence of the pay-for-parking demand for all workers through their brave strike,” Sawant said. “All workers owe the carpenters a debt of gratitude for their demonstration of determination and tenacity, and for leading in this fight.”
“I have paid parking in my union contract, but many don’t,” said Logan Swan, a journeyman member of Ironworkers Local 86. “This is about raising the bar for all construction workers. Nobody should have to pay to work. Many officials have said they support my sister and brother carpenters, but I haven’t seen them follow up like Kshama, who consistently walks the walk. This is the chance for the rest of the City Council to stand with us where it counts, by supporting this legislation.”
Sawant said: “The carpenters’ fight is our fight to make Seattle affordable for all. And we know it won’t be easy, going up against the combined forces of the construction industry and the political establishment. But if our movement can win fully-paid parking, it will be a victory for all working people in Seattle, because it will strike an important blow against the wealthy elites, and show what is possible when the working class builds its collective power to fight back,” she said.
Sawant initially announced she would advance the paid parking legislation at a Sept. 22 press conference held with dozens of striking union carpenters. She followed up the press conference with an op-ed detailing the necessity of paid parking for the workers, and launched the community petition shortly after that.
Sawant noted that construction workers increasingly can’t afford to live in the city that they build, and are forced into commutes of up to 2 or even 3 hours a day, each way. Average home prices in Seattle last month were an astonishing $875,000, an increase of 9.5 percent over just the last year and more than double the average price of a decade ago. The median two-bedroom apartment in Seattle now rents for $2,170, with price hikes driven largely by corporate landlords.
“Seattle construction workers put their lives on the line every day to build the new downtown housing, but the developers and landlords have priced this housing out of reach for all but the very wealthy,” Sawant said. For instance, two-bedroom apartments at Rainier Square are listed at a staggering $6,200/month to $16,000/month, and condominiums at The Spire are priced from $485,000 for a small, 531-square-foot one-bedroom unit to $1.44 million for a family-sized unit, she noted.
“No construction workers, teachers, hotel workers, office workers, machinists, grocery workers, nurses, or other workers could possibly afford to live in these luxury high rises, and because of corporate landlord rent hikes, they increasingly can’t afford to live in ‘average’ apartments,” Sawant noted. “That is why, in addition to fighting for paid parking for construction workers – really, the least the bosses should do for them – our movement has to fight for an increase in the Amazon tax to fund union-built, publicly-controlled, affordable housing for working people.”