Strike causes delayed start for PT

Kirk Boxleitner boxleitner@ptleader.com
Posted 8/28/18

The Port Townsend School District announced there will be a delay of start for students attending Salish Coast Elementary School due to a union strike.Since members of the International Union of …

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Strike causes delayed start for PT

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The Port Townsend School District announced there will be a delay of start for students attending Salish Coast Elementary School due to a union strike.

Since members of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 302 began striking Aug. 21, construction workers were seen picketing the Shine Pit entrance the next day, Aug. 22, and the site of Salish Coast Elementary the day following, Aug. 23.

The Leader attempted to contact the Miles Sand and Gravel Company, asking for an official comment, but were unsuccessful.

“Salish Coast Elementary will open one week late on Sept. 11,” said PTSD Superintendent John Polm in a press release Aug. 28. “Although we are disappointed with a delay, we believe it is prudent to build in time for necessary work and for our staff to prepare classrooms.”

A previous press statement from the Port Townsend School District Aug. 24 noted the district “doesn't take a position on labor disputes,” but reported the district had been notified by its contractor that the opening of school at Salish Coast Elementary on Sept. 4 is “not certain.”

Among the members of IUOE Local 302 taking part in the work stoppage are crane operators, cement workers and earth movers. The scope of their strike impacts construction projects throughout the Olympic Peninsula, as well as Seattle.

Blue Heron Middle School, OCEAN, and Port Townsend High School will start as scheduled. 

“Although we are very close, we do not have enough assurance that all pieces will fall into place by September 4th,” stated Kirk Robinson, project manager, in the Aug. 24 release.

On Aug. 24, a press statement was also issued by Daren Konopaski, international vice president and business manager of IUOE Local 302, acknowledging “many may be frustrated that the Local has not engaged the media or the public in our dispute,” but reiterating the dispute “is between our members and contractors signatory to our Western Washington Master Labor Agreement,” and as such, “the Local will not distract from the negotiation process by litigating its positions in the media.”

The Aug. 24 press release from the Port Townsend School District, attributed to Superintendent John Polm, stated once the IUOE Local 302 and Associated General Contractors come to a resolution, Local 302 workers will return to the job site and the remaining exterior work on the building will continue.

“The district project manager, contractor, subcontractors and district staff are working together to problem-solve and make contingency plans, allowing for the school to open for students,” Polm wrote. “Many workers are working overtime to complete the portions of the project that they are able to complete at this time.”

According to an Aug. 27 phone conversation with Polm's office, the district is unable to determine exactly how much cost might ultimately be incurred from this overtime.

A meeting for families will be held 6 p.m. Aug. 30 at the Port Townsend High School Auditorium to answer questions about the process, which was previously scheduled Aug. 29.

“The school building is a beautiful new space for our students and community,” Port Townsend School Board President Connie Welch said. “While this delay is frustrating, I am hopeful that our dedicated staff are working on a positive solution.”

Polm promised Salish Coast Elementary families they would be notified of any school schedule changes, through the SchoolMessenger automated calling and email system.

Any Salish Coast Elementary family needing to update their contact information with the school should email Salish Coast Elementary Secretary LaTrecia Arthur at larthur@ptschools.org.

Updates will also be posted on the Salish Coast Elementary site at salishcoast.ptschools.org, the Port Townsend Schools site at ptschools.org and the Salish Coast Elementary Facebook page at facebook.com/salishcoast.

Konopaski recounted how he received reports “from all areas within our jurisdiction” the picket actions were being “well-received, and that the Local 302's picket captains and picketers were adhering to their instructions,” and “conducting themselves both professionally and respectfully.”

Konopaski echoed Polm's statement that after this dispute is settled, the Local's membership would once again report to work for its contractors.

“We were clear from the outset of the parties' negotiations about the membership's expectations,” Konopaski wrote. “Despite our May 31 contract expiration date, our members continued going to work, as the Local's leadership bargained in good faith toward an agreement that would be approved by the membership. With the tentative agreements falling short of those expectations, the membership voted down the agreements, leaving us where we are today.”

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