Washington state carpenters narrowly approved by just a 53.7% majority on Oct. 11 a tentative agreement with the Associated General Contractors of Washington that includes a 15.43% total wage and benefits increase in a three-year contract.

While leaders of the Northwest Carpenters Union promoted the pact, its financial terms were opposed by a faction both online and at locations where workers had been on strike for three weeks, keeping the final vote closer than anticipated.

Roughly 12,000 of the more than 28,000 union members were eligible to vote on the contract because they work directly under its terms, or their wages and benefits are tied to it. About 5,318 members actually voted, roughly 45.7%.

Workers returned to work on Oct. 6, pending the vote outcome. The mid-September strike came in a member vote of 56% to 44% after a fourth AGC offer was rejected. It included more than a 20% wage and benefits increase, but over a four-year contract.  

Ryan Case, a bargaining committee member and vice president of Local 30, had predicted contract approval by a majority of members, adding that the three-year contract was important. "It is a good agreement that takes care of our brothers and sisters for years to come." he said when the tentative agreement was announced.

The package increase of $10.02 per hour over three years raises total wages and benefits from $64.94 per hour to $74.96 per hour. Inside the agreement, wages bump from $46.92 to $53.70 per hour over three years, with an additional increase in health and welfare from $8.51 to $9.34; pension from $8.60 to $10.85; training fund from $0.10 to $0.13; and apprenticeship from $0.81 to $0.94. 

The new agreement also includes an increase in parking reimbursement and adds key zones in Seattle and Bellevue.

The agreement would also give workers retroactive wages to June 1, which Case said "will help a lot of members who have been on strike. Early morning picket lines and smaller paychecks are not what we are used to." 

Evelyn Shapiro, tunion executive secretary-treasurer and co-chair, said with a divided membership on the last few contracts, the union involved opposing voices at the table to make sure all membership views were reflected. 

"This agreement reflects some great gains and some additional gains we are excited about," she said.. 

"Many members were not comfortable with the four-year contract, so we went back to the three-year contract," the union wrote in a letter to members. "We were able to gain some movement with AGC on key items."