The Alaska Marine Highway System ferries LeConte, left, Malaspina and Tazlina, hidden from view, are tied up at the Auke Bay Terminal on Thursday, July 25, 2019. The Inland Boatmen’s Union of the Pacific called a strike on Wednesday over failed negotiations with Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

VIDEO AND STORY: Alaska ferry workers strike continues; State says strike ‘illegal’

Ferry workers strike, and the state strikes back

Commissioner Kelly Tshibaka announced in a teleconference that the state was working to bring the Inlandboatman’s Union of the Pacific back to the negotiating table after IBU workers went on strike, mooring the ferries of the Alaska Marine Highway System to their piers, engines cold.

Ferry workers picketed the Auke Bay Terminal in Juneau Thursday morning after the IBU declared that negotiations with the administration had run aground. Many cars and trucks passing the picketers could be heard honking their horns as they passed, possibly in solidarity with the workers. Picketers seemed unphased by dreary weather and disappointed with the administration’s failure to negotiate in earnest.

“One of the provisions they are striking is illegal, which means the strike is illegal and unprotected,” said Tshibaka. She said this threat had been communicated to the IBU via letter at 12.30 p.m. on July 25.

READ MORE: State refunds passenger fares as Alaska ferry strike goes on

“There are different consequences for that,” Tshibaka said, mentioning that taking this affair to court would be the next level of escalation. Her claim that the strike is illegal is tied to the IBU’s request pertaining to a cost of living differential. When this was communicated to the IBU, they amended their statement to bring it within the boundaries of protected strikes, but the state refused to recognize this and still holds the position that the strike is illegal.

[gps-image name=”17872013_web1_190725Ferry_Strike08.jpg”]

“What they’re offering doesn’t cover our health care,” said Rob Arnold, vice chairman with the IBU. Ferry workers don’t receive an automatic yearly increase on their wages to deal with health insurance cost increases like other state employees, said Arnold, forcing them to negotiate for the small increase every year.

“I hope the governor puts his heart in it and thinks about the people, not about his agenda,” said Jerry Slackey, a member of the picket line. “This isn’t just about our jobs, this is about our communities. This is their lifelines to hospitals and grocery stores. This is what gets them back and forth.”

Both the IBU and the state seem to agree that the incident is halting a crucial service in keeping the communities in southeast Alaska functioning and viable. “I think for our coastal communities this is a really significant incident,” said Tshibaka. “I think whether we call it crisis depends on how much someone depends on the AMHS. For our coastal communities, this is a major crisis.”

However, the governor’s budget proposals seem to say precisely how much he really cares about the communities in the Southeast, as his proposed budget would slash winter service schedules, fail to improve the wages of ferry workers to keep up with rising cost of living, and eliminate to funding to other critical programs supporting community health and public safety.

“Our union has been trying to work with the state for a couple years, but the state is not taking us seriously,” said Roel Mangaccat, a member of the IBU picketing the terminal. “All of us see this as a last resort but we’re out of options. They seem like they’re against us.”

Another organized labor groups support the IBU’s cause.

READ MORE: Mayor Brain scheduling multi-stakeholder meeting to save Alaska ferry in Prince Rupert

“We are standing in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the IBU in their struggle for fair treatment and we will do everything in our power to help them,” said Dennis Young, President of Juneau’s local chapter of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.

However, the longshoreman are not able to walk out on strike at this time.

“I want our IBU employees back to work,” said Tshibaka. “I want them back on their ships.” The disruption, she said, has disrupted a large number of travellers.

Tshibaka said the state has refunded more than $500,000 in fares for trips affected by the strikes, though the Department of Transportation was still compiling those numbers at press time. Travellers affected by the strikes may call the Alaska Department of Transportation for assistance at 465-3941.

The Northern View

Send The Newsroom email
Like the The Northern View on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 523-2271 or


Members of the Inland Boatmen’s Union of the Pacific picket in front of the Auke Bay Terminal on Thursday, July 25, 2019. The union called a strike on Wednesday over failed negotiations with Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Just Posted

VIDEO: Young actors shine at theatre festival

Harbourfest Theatre Youth Program performed at this year’s Udderfest

Heart of Our City: Nobody is perfect, including parents

Sherry Beal has been giving and finding support at Prince Rupert’s North Coast Community Services

STORY AND VIDEO: Just kicking it: Taekwondo centre a mainstay in Prince Rupert

Master Paul Bozman has been at the helm for over three decades

PHOTO GALLERY: Rain doesn’t block the fun at Friendship House party

Annual Block Party offers activities, food and entertainment for all ages

New piece of art bedecks Prince Rupert Library

“The Quilt of Belonging to Prince Rupert” makes long awaited move to its new home

The grass is always greener — thanks to golf course grounds crew

Grant Slocombe helps maintain —and even finds some time to play — the Prince Rupert Golf Course

WEB POLL: Do you agree or disagree with the council of Port Edward’s decision to deny financial assistance for the feral cats?

A resident asked council for $2,400 to spay, neuter, and care for three feral cats in a colony of 20

The Northern View announces inaugural Tyee Fishing Derby in Prince Rupert

More than $7,000 up for grabs for biggest legal salmon and halibut

The Northern View 2019 Readers Choice

It’s that time of year again! Vote online or at the Prince Rupert office before noon on Aug. 30

VIDEO: Ride to Conquer Cancer rolls into Hope

Thousands of cyclist descend on small town for annual cancer fundraiser

B.C. VIEWS: Pipelines set to roll as federal politicians posture

Projects to drive B.C., Canadian economy in years ahead

B.C. Lions fall to 1-9 after 13-10 loss to Ticats

Lowly Leos have dropped six straight CFL contests

VIDEO: B.C. woman meets biological mother, 38 years later

Mother never gave up hope of finding daughter, despite all the obstacles

B.C. man who died after rescuing swimmer was known for helping others

Shaun Nugent described as a dad, a coach, a hero and ‘stand-up guy’ at celebration of life

Most Read