Ferry Workers Take Strike Action After Governor’s Negotiators Fail to Act
FVF Chenega, one of the shuttle ferries in the Alaska Marine Highway fleet.
JUNEAU—Public ferry workers who operate Alaska’s vital Marine Highway announced that they are striking, following the failure by Governor Dunleavy’s negotiators to offer an acceptable compromise prior to a July 24 deadline.
The action had an immediate impact on the MV Columbia, located in Ketchikan. Workers assigned to that vessel will not be working and have organized a picket line. Workers belonging to other unions have pledged to honor picket lines.
“We didn’t want to take this action and urged the Governor’s negotiators to work with us to get a contract,” said Trina Arnold, Director of the Alaska Region Inlandboatmen’s Union of the Pacific, an affiliate of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.
“This strike action is just beginning, and we stand ready to return if the Governor’s negotiators want to get this resolved with a contract,” Arnold added.
A key issue in the dispute is drastic cuts in service for dozens of Alaska communities that depend on the state’s Marine Highway. Ferry workers have joined with those community leaders and small business owners to keep ferries running in remote areas of the state that have no affordable transportation alternative.
“Instead of working on a contract settlement that can keep the ferries running, the administration wants to slash service and leave thousands of customers in those communities stranded,” said Arnold. “Alaska can’t work if dozens of communities lose their lifeline to keep businesses operating and medical appointments from being canceled. We’ve been standing-up to help ferry service survive, and today’s action is part of that commitment.”
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Spreading the Word
When Bristol Bay Native Corporation (BBNC) first aired TV commercials featuring the tagline, “A Place That’s Always Been,” the reaction was surprising. Not only because they received numerous accolades and marketing awards for the campaign but because, at the time, it was rare for Alaska Native corporations to market themselves through the media.