The COVID-19 pandemic hit various regions of the U.S. differently. Similarly, government and private industries each handled the pandemic different. One of the first American cities to experience COVID-19 has worked through the issues and managed to keep their construction industry alive.
Seattle Building and Construction Trades Council Executive Secretary Monty Anderson discussed what actions were taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among the building trades, how construction has fared and what is being done to diversify the trades in the pacific northwest.
One year since the start of the pandemic
COVID-19 hit American shores approximately one year ago. Anderson believes Seattle’s construction industry has done a good job overcoming the associated challenges, such as personal protective equipment requirements, distancing on breaks and more.
Although there was a shortage on masks throughout the U.S., Anderson believes the Seattle Building Trades did a good job acquiring masks and distributing them to workers. While there was some pushback from a handful of contractors regarding the new requirements, they came together for the good of the workers.
Now a year after the start of the pandemic, Anderson reported that the trades are doing well. Infrastructure projects in the area are moving forward and work is plentiful.
Using Project Labor Agreements to get through the pandemic
Anderson said Project Labor Agreements have been widely used throughout the pandemic. Without these, he said they would be lost.
With many private construction projects put on pause due to the uncertainty of the pandemic, the PLA’s used to push publicly funded projects forward were welcome. He said tradesmen and tradeswomen have been working on new docks, floating bridges, a convention center and more.
Anderson also said schools and school districts have been in contact with the Building Trades regarding insulation and ventilation in schools. He added that COVID-19 highlighted the need for renovating ventilation systems in schools, which often go unchecked for decades.
Diversifying the Building Trades
The Building Trades are always looking to diversify their ranks by gaining the membership of more women and racial minorities.
In order to do this, Anderson said they are working to establish preapprenticeship programs that will introduce the trades to people. He said this is the best way because it allows individuals to experience the trades first hand before committing to a career.
Anderson also said an important part of recruiting and organizing is to show people that there is upward mobility in the trades, explaining how someone can go from apprentice to union official, foreman, business owner and more.