Kent Events Center walk-off gets called off

Construction workers were back on the job Tuesday at the Kent Events Center.

Construction workers on Jan. 9 prepare to install beams at the Kent Events Center. A labor dispute last week resulted in workers walking off the job. Construction has since resumed

Labor dispute to be resolved

Construction workers were back on the job Tuesday at the Kent Events Center.

Most construction work halted for one day, May 23, because of a dispute between Roofers Union Local 54 and the roofing subcontractor over the hiring of apprentices.

Roofers Union Local 54 of Seattle had set up an informational picket on May 23 at the arena claiming that Cobra Roofing of Auburn had failed to hire apprentices after it had agreed to do so for at least 15 percent of labor hours under the bid for the contract, said Bill Kemble, business manager for Local 54, in a phone interview last week.

Other trade unions at the events center honored the picket signs by the roofers union and stayed off the job.

But conversations among officials from lead contractor Mortenson Co., based in Minneapolis; Cobra and the union led to the return of all construction employees by Tuesday, said Brad Tong of Shiels Obletz Johnsen, Inc., a Seattle-based management firm that represents the city of Kent during construction of the arena.

“The issue has been resolved,” Tong said Tuesday. “Mortenson took the lead with the union, and all of the laborers are back on the site.”

The $78 million events center is slated to open in January 2009. The 6,025-seat arena is at West James Street and Fifth Avenue North. The Seattle Thunderbirds minor league hockey team will be the anchor tenant.

Cobra has completed about 35 percent of its work on the roof and knew about the requirements for hiring apprentices, Tong said. He said he didn’t have the specifics of how the company plans to meet the apprentice requirement or when that would occur.

“The mechanics of that and what they have to fulfill is not my call or the city’s call,” said Tong, who added Mortenson is working with Cobra to meet the requirement.

A Mortenson representative in the company’s Bellevue office referred media calls Tuesday to Tong and Ken Johnsen of Shiels Obletz Johnsen.

Kemble, of the Roofers Union Local 54, was on vacation this week and unavailable for comment. Nobody else for the union would comment on the matter, a spokeswoman said Wednesday. Kemble said last week that Cobra would need to sign up apprentices to keep the informational picket away.

The Seattle Area Roofers Apprentice Program offers three-to-four-year programs to help train apprentices to become journeyman workers, Kemble said. Those apprentices are supplied to employers through the union.

Contact Steve Hunter at 253-872-6600, ext. 5052 or shunter@reporternewspapers.com.

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