On September 16th it is expected that the members of the Pacific NW Carpenters Union will go on strike. While NWC is not signatory to the Carpenters Union, any labor disruption will impact NWC operations in various ways. The purpose of this communication is to provide guidance to NWC staff on what to do when encountering striking workers as well as lay out NWC’s management expectations.
On many of our sites, the general contractor will establish a “2-gate” system for entering the worksite. There will be a Primary Gate which is reserved for the employees of any company that is being struck (if applicable). This gate is the gate where striking workers will form their picket line.
The 2nd gate, also referred to as a Neutral Gate is reserved for the employees of companies not being struck. Striking workers are not allowed to establish a picket line in front of a neutral gate. Since there is no picket line in front of a neutral gate, all employees of non-picketed employers (this includes NWC) are allowed to enter and go to work without sanction. Entering through a neutral gate is not the same as crossing a picket line. Most local Unions, if asked by their members, will take the position that their members are free to enter the site through a neutral gate if they so choose. The whole purpose of establishing a “2-gate” system is to contain the labor dispute between the employers being struck and the affected Union(s). During the Operator’s strike in 2018 other trades continued to work by entering through neutral gates.
NWC management expects our workers to be prepared to arrive to work as scheduled like any typical workday and to enter through a neutral gate. NWC has executed labor contracts with the Operators, Teamsters and Laborers and all of those contracts contain a “no-strike” provision for the duration of the contract. This provision in the agreements means we mutually agree to keep working unless there is a dispute between NWC and the unions we are signatory to.
Frequently asked questions are listed below:
Is NWC asking their employees to cross a picket line?
No. NWC is not asking any Union member to cross a picket line. Pickets should be established at the project main or primary gate. NWC expects our workers to enter and exit through a neutral gate that is not being picketed.
Is entering a site through a neutral gate similar to crossing a picket line?
No. National labor law specifically allows for non-struck employers and their employees to continue working. That is the purpose of establishing a neutral gate and the “no-strike” provision in our contracts. Striking workers are dis-allowed from forming a picket line across a neutral gate.
If I continue working by entering through a neutral gate, am I showing a lack of support for a brother/sister Union?
No. One of the key elements that supports collective bargaining is the guarantee of continuity of work throughout the life of the labor agreement. NWC craft workers all have newly signed and ratified contracts. Refusing to work in support of a strike, when it is legally permissible to work, undermines the integrity of the agreements made on the labor contracts.
How else will I be affected by the upcoming strike?
Our work is often dependent upon the work sequence and performance of other trades. It is likely that we will have projects where we will not be able to work because our work is unavailable. An example would be excavation projects that are dependent upon the continuous work of the shoring contractor.
What if we are working for a GC that is signatory to the carpenters, but there are no pickets at the project site?
If there are sites that do not have any picketing members present, then all workers are free to enter the site and work in their typical manner.
If I am at the project site and I feel uneasy or am unsure how to proceed what should I do?
First, remain at the site and speak with your direct supervisor. At all times, you have the option to contact your local Union representative. It is expected that most local Unions will not direct members to go to work through a neutral gate but will leave the choice to the members. However, if you have any questions ask them specifically if entering through a neutral gate is permissible. Additionally, you may always reach out to Chris Tollie or the NWC office.