Mediation Could End Strike of Alaska Ferry Workers
A federal mediator has been called in by Alaska ferry workers and state officials in an effort to end the strike that began the end of July. The strike has disrupted travel during the peak tourist season. It has halted traffic for the Alaska Marine Highway System. This is a state-operated ferry system that serves nearly three dozen coastal towns, the majority of which have no access to outside roads.
According to Robb Arnold, vice chairman of the IBU’s Alaska Regional Board, “We are hoping with all of our heart to get back to work today.”
There are more than 400 deckhands represented by the union. The union also represents other works and the bulk of those employed on ships. There are two other unions that represent ship masters, mates, pilots, and marine engineers, and those unions are not on strike. They are however refusing to cross the picket line.
According to Arnold, the strike is in response to the failure to secure a new three year contract. He also stated that the strike arose because of a series of unfair labor practices. The current contract expired in mid-2017, but the terms of that contract were extended.
State officials are calling the strike illegal. State Administration Commissioner Kelly Tshibaka warned that if the strike continued further into August, the state would no longer be paying the ferry workers’ health insurance premiums.
Several Democratic presidential candidates have expressed their opinions on the matter. California Senator Kamala Harris stated she stands in in solidarity with the workers and said “Alaskans deserve safe transportation options and the Inland Boatmen’s Union and its members deserve fair wages and safe working conditions.”