As someone who has helped build Seattle’s skyline and infrastructure, I know that each new construction crane on the horizon means thousands of jobs for construction workers. While there is some pain that comes with the historic growth we are experiencing, I believe it’s part of a shared path to a better, more sustainable future.
We have some challenges, but the problems we face shouldn’t be blamed on more jobs being created. The obstacles we face in balancing the needs of our city won’t be solved by slowing down our economy. It’s policy decisions that will help us create the community we want to build.
It’s worth remembering that not so long ago, unemployment in King County hovered around 10%. Many workers and their families suffered greatly.
Today’s booming economy has its benefits. Take Amazon for instance. Instead of contributing to more sprawl, Amazon made a conscious decision to locate in the densest part of the region. Since 2010, the company has invested $4.5 billion in the heart of Seattle, building 11 million square feet of office space to house 45,000 workers across 47 buildings.
Almost all of that work has been done by union members who make a family wage and receive important benefits such as health care and contributions to retirement. Despite what some critics say, Amazon has been a strong partner for the women and men in the construction trades. Amazon hires union contractors who have apprentices that get training and career opportunities, helping transform many lives for the better and supporting the middle class in our region.
That hard work, innovation, and economic activity is creating a robust and growing budget at the city of Seattle. The city of Seattle’s annual budget this year is $5.9 billion. In 2012 that number was $3.9 billion.
So why do so many Seattleites feel a disconnect between the economic opportunity around them and the reality they face when they walk the streets downtown or in their neighborhood? Because along with these good economic numbers come some challenges.
Like many cities today, we are facing serious problems with issues such as homelessness and public safety. Some have wanted to play a blame game that targets the people and organizations who are investing in this city. I’m tired of that game. Let’s preserve the things we like about Seattle and implement sustainable solutions for the things we don’t.
When you’re part of a construction crew, 20 floors up, hanging off the skeleton of a building, everybody’s got to do their part to keep everyone safe and get the job done. Everyone has their role. You don’t have time for excuses — you either build the building safely or you don’t. If you don’t finish your work, you don’t get the job the next time around.
We have a chance this year to elect new leadership to the Seattle City Council. We need to elect council members who will work in partnership with Mayor Jenny Durkan, who is committed to growing jobs and supporting working people. With seven seats up, four of which have no incumbent, we have a chance to elect a council that brings people together to focus on solutions rather than dividing them.
I’m ready for a city government that understands not just the challenges we face, but the unique opportunity that we have
today. I’m ready for leaders who will find ways to further collaborate with unions, the private sector, philanthropy, nonprofits and education partners, and leaders throughout our diverse community to build foundations that will allow our region to continue to thrive and invest in those areas that are not.
I hope those are the people we’ll elect.
Monty Anderson is executive secretary of the Seattle Building & Construction Trades Council, which includes 19 affiliate unions and more than 20,000 construction workers.