W. Wash. school projects stalled amid ongoing construction workers' strike

    The construction strike has left a mess at Evergreen Heights Elementary School in Auburn as classes resume. (KOMO News photo)

    Crane operators and some other construction workers remained on strike Wednesday in Western Washington, delaying building projects all around the Puget Sound region for a third week.

    The strike, which began Aug. 21, has brought a halt to contruction at apartment high-rises, road improvement projects and others around the growing Seattle metro area - but has been especially hard on schools.

    Upgrades and safety improvements at Puget Sound-area school campuses that were supposed to be finished when students returned this week remain unfinished and in limbo.

    Bargaining resumed Tuesday with the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 302, which represents the striking crane operators, road pavers, mechanics and other workers - but so far no agreement has been reached.

    The strike has also idled other construction workers who are not on strike, since they cannot proceed without the help of the striking workers.

    In the meantime, schools and parents at some schools are navigating through half-finished contruction areas as they return to class.

    At Evergreen Heights in Auburn, construction began late last school year with a goal to have a new parking lot and playground put in before the school year began Wednesday.

    But instead, the project is far from complete. So school begins with no playground for students - and parents are forced to park blocks away to walk kids onto the dusty campus construction zone.

    The strike has also halted construction at Federal Way High School, with completion of the parking lots and landscaping work on hold.

    Associated General Contractors of Washington says bargaining has now resumed with the striking union.

    Members of the union now make between $38 and $43 an hour.

    They have twice voted down tentative deals after their contract expired in June. Most recently they rejected a nearly 16 percent pay raise and a 13 percent increase in fringe benefits, such as health and welfare and pension pay.

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