Breaking: IBU ratifies deal, ferry strike is over


(Editor’s note: Check back; this story will be updated)

The membership of the Inland Boatmen’s Union has ratified the deal its team of out-of-state negotiators made with the State of Alaska, which means the illegal strike has ended, Must Read Alaska has learned.

A group of five labor negotiators from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union arrived in Alaska late last week and brought the matter to a quick resolution with the State. The IBU is the ILWU’s Marine Division.

Workers in the IBU will not receive any pay increases in 2019, because the Legislature has already completed its work in funding the collective bargaining agreements, according to what sources told MRAK today.

Instead, IBU members will get a 1.5 percent raise in 2020 and another 1.5 percent raise in 2021.

The union had asked for 9 percent over three years.

The IBU also relented on demands that it dictate the schedules of workers. In addition, members will be starting to pay some of the cost of their own health insurance by the third year of the contract.

The State relented too. It gave in on the demand that on one of the ferries, workers should be able to drink coffee without paying for it.

For the IBU membership, the strike means they not only lost nine days of wages, but their union is also still subject to a lawsuit by the State if it wishes to collect the more than $3.2 million in ferry fares that had to be returned to travelers.

The ferries will resume service according to the following schedule:

  • MV Columbia Will begin with a Ketchikan-Bellingham run at 3:00pm on Wednesday, August 7th.
  • MV Malaspina Will begin with a Juneau-Petersburg run at 5:45pm on Sunday, August 4th.
  • MV Aurora Will begin with a revised schedule of Valdez-Whittier-Cordova run at 7:30am on Sunday, August 4th.
  • MV LeConte Will begin with a Juneau-Gustavus-Pelican-Gustavus-Juneau run at 7:00am on Sunday, August 4th.
  • MV Tazlina Will begin with a revised schedule of Juneau-Haines-Juneau run at 7:00am on Sunday, August 4th.
  • MV Lituya Will begin with a Ketchikan-Annette Bay run at 10:45am on Sunday, August 4th.
  • MV Kennicott: Will begin with a Ketchikan- Bellingham run at 3:00pm on Thursday, August 8th.
  • MV Tustumena: Will begin with a Kodiak-Homer run at 10:15pm on Wednesday, August 7th.

The schedule takes into consideration that ships were tied up immediately upon getting to port after the strike was called, so will be departing from that port, and the Alaska Marine Highway system must get crews to those ports and get the provisions on the ferries, complete inspections, and prepare for guests.

The Reservations Call Center is open Monday-Friday, from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday from 10:00am – 2:00pm. To inquire about your refund, please call 1-800-642-0066. Due to the high volume of calls, it may take time to connect with a customer service representative, the Marine Highway System is advising.


  1. Can’t wait to see their whole contract. IBU should be embarrassed by their petty actions and selfish attitudes.

    I really hope the state pursues charges. I call this a win for the state.

    Now all we need are competent politicians that will properly fund and invest in Alaska’s vital infrastructure instead of cutting funds.

    I want A FULL PFD

    • I agree with 99% of your sarcasm.

      The PFD, as I understand it (correct me if I’m wrong), was supposed to belong to the people of Alaska, by law. The politicians have no right to tamper with it.

      But they did anyway. I don’t know how, but they did. Every Alaskan should be getting a full PFD every year, based on interest earned, etc.

      I could be wrong, though.

  3. “a 1.5 percent raise in 2020 and another 1.5 percent raise in 2021.” And free coffee. This is what they endangered the welfare of people in places that relies on ferry service for? I thought they were so important to the people of Alaska? The areas that can only function if they are running. The people with doctor appointments etc. I wouldn’t get out of bed for free coffee.

  4. Get our$3.2 million back.
    Post the whole ferry system for sale or give everything to the State of Washington for$1.00 on a quick claim deed.
    This is a case of where it’s way better to cut our losses.

  5. It was all about making Gov Dunleavy look bad. Same as Berkowitz declaration of emergency Catholic Social services throwing homeless mothers out in the street for the TV cameras to capture, the board of regents claiming exigency, and KTVA running the story of the DR whose cost at Pioneer home going up. As a retired MD I’m sure the good Dr must have some idea what his costs would be like later in life. I am also sure that his cost increase had to do with what sort of assets the good DR has .

    Make Alaska Solvent Again #MASA

  6. What about the full payment of their August Health care insurance cost??? That was their choice to strike it’s their burden to pay I believe …. Not the state.

    • Funny thing; they settled at 11:00 PM on August 1st so arguably that tentative agreement ended the strike and the State will pay the HI, though I haven’t seen anything official about it.

  7. What became of their demand that “the State of Alaska give it an exemption to the Janus ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court, which affirmed that workers have a right to join or not join a union?” I saw that as a major and unacceptable demand, will the state now comply with Janus and not withhold union dues?

    • The SCOTUS Janus decision is the law of the land. The state cannot mandate union membership to keep a job. Hopefully, the state follows the law.

      • Janus may be the law of the land, but the unions and sympathetic employers, e.g., Democrat governments are hard at work getting around it. If they’ve published the tentative agreement I haven’t found it, but if the union still dispatches employees, it is still a union shop no matter Janus. As I’ve said in other places, it will take lawsuits in every unionized jurisdiction in the Country for Janus to ever truly be the law of the land.

  8. Everyone should be prepared for a decline in the quality of ferry service. Employees may become more surly; loading and unloading will take more time; shoreside personnel will know less and tell less. The big one will be to watch the number of ships that miss the tide to go through the Wrangell Narrows. I hope we can keep the canoes sailing. The ages and conditions of the Malispina, Columbia and Aurora will come into play. I frankly don’t know the status of the Matanuska. It was fun while it lasted.

    • This is a valid point. I hope that the state invests in our ferry system to create a stable, well-funded service that will help Southeast Alaskans now and in the future.

      • The system was relatively stable when it focused on four services: 1. Mainline service to Ketchikan, Wrangell, Petersburg, Sitka, Juneau, Haines and Skagway. 2. Whittier, Cordova and Valdez. 3. Homer and Seward to Kodiak. 4. SE mainline overload shuttles. The system started to have problems when expanding the boundaries. Examples are the cross-Gulf service, the Aleutian chain service, the fast ferries and the services to the small SE communities. There latter four services are likely uneconomic and demand large subsidies. IMO, Alaskans like the ferries and are willing to subsidize them — but only to a point. Greed and overreach has brought us to the current mess.

  9. This is a great accomplishment for the Dunleavy administration. Walker could not reach a settlement with this errant union. Dunleavy reached a capstone agreement with very modest concessions despite the anti-Dunleavy media, the far-left spin in Juneau, and an unhelpful Legislature. This is just one of many messes Walker left for the next guy to fix, and while users of the ferries were inconvenienced greatly this was a good outcome for Alaskans.

  10. “the illegal strike has ended” – that’s biased reporting, and untrue. Also I wonder why you highlighted “free coffee” rather than important health care concerns. Certainly, your readers are less well rounded after reading this reporting. You could have noted that IBU had received NO wage increases for the last five years. Can you fix this Suzanne? You’re better than this.

    • We readers are not less well rounded as you suppose, Chuck Felch. We’re getting more well rounded information. Also, the story points out that the union had been asking for a nine percent raise over three years. It seems to this well-rounded reader that if they’d settled on a reasonable contract three years ago they’d be ahead by now. But there is a finite amount of money to run these ships and underwrite the voyages for people. The more the workers get per hour, the more the schedules will be reduced, and fewer workers will be needed. As Art Chance says, the party’s over.

      • My fault! Sounds like you got all the facts you needed to confirm your opinion. Please don’t look elsewhere for balance. Anything explaining why workers felt their relationship with the State was unsustainable is probably just liberal media lies!

    • The strike was illegal! That’s why the ILWU and the AFL-CIO stepped in. A finding that IBU committed an unfair labor practice would have been a really good Exhibit 1 in a lawsuit for the damages caused by the illegal strike. There’s nobody working for the State these days who has ever even seen a labor dispute, so they got blindsided by the impasse declaration and the illegal strike, but once with a little help from their friends they saw the situation and threatened to take action, the union came to heel.

      • One side said it was illegal. The other side said it was perfectly legal. Claims and characterizations are often a part of disputes, sometimes to play to the public. Nothing was proved. But this article took a side and reported a claim as fact. That’s not news reporting. That appears more like opinion and/or bias. That’s fine if you’re upfront about your allegiance or disposition. But it’s not ok if you’re trying to pass yourself off as a legitimate news source.

        • I’m the one that first publicly broached the idea that it was an illegal strike. I did it here on MRAK the day after the strike began. Unlike you, I actually know something about labor relations under Alaska law.

          Had I been the director of labor relations, I’d have filed an unfair labor practice against them the second they said the word impasse and I wouldn’t have gotten blind-sided by an illegal strike the way the State did.

          As I said the other day, if it were me, if I didn’t get what I wanted from the union, I’d leave them on the beach at least long enough to miss their health insurance and a few paychecks. Unless there are some goodies hidden in there, if the union took a 0-1.5-1.5% three year agreement, the union surrendered rather than face the ULP and a damages suit. So, the State fell in the outhouse and came out smelling like a rose.

          • You “broached the idea?” Yet it was reported as ‘fact’ on this site. The line in the article might have been more correct by sourcing the statement by saying something like, “Labor expert Art Chance believes the strike was illegal.” Maybe add some balance: ” Lawyers for the union asserted that the strike was within their rights.”
            Although I bow to your superior labor knowledge, my concern is that the writer had an agenda as I see no effort to correct it. A site that denigrates the “mainstream media” appears to be ok with forgoing journalistic standards and telling a one-sided story.

  11. Build the road from Sitka to Chatham, this one little piece of infrastructure would make the Ferries much more efficient and provide Sitka with improved service.

    JMARK- The loading and unloading is supervised by the First Mate and I believe the Able Body Seamen who work loading are not in the same union as the cooks, bottle-washers and bed-changers.

    • ABs and OSs are also in the IBU. There are three bargaining units of vessel employees: licensed deck officers, licensed engineers, and unlicensed deck employees, which includes hotel service employees.

    • Unless things have changed radically, the AB and Ordinaries were in the same Union as the stewards… the IBU.

  12. My earlier comment pointing out an error and omission in your article was removed. Are only anti-union comments allowed? Another suggestion: Before the article headline in big letters it should read: “OPINION.” Without balanced reporting, this is not a news article and it appears you are manicuring comments to support your opinion. Opinions are not facts and should not be treated as such.

  13. The article accurately says, “The State relented too. It gave in on the demand that on one of the ferries, workers should be able to drink coffee without paying for it.” A fact worthy of mention is that the people of the State of Alaska are paying for that coffee.

    The old man said, “you don’t get anything in life for free; if you aren’t paying for it, some one else is.”

    • And in the next negotiation cycle every State employee union will be demanding free coffee. I don’t know if the State still has any stupid “me too” provisions in its contracts but if they do, any of them that have a “me too” provision will be getting free coffee. I wonder if I can get a refund on all the money I paid into the labor relations coffee fund and for the Bunn coffee maker we all chipped in to buy.

  14. Thanks for the dope on Able Body Sea Men, I stand corrected!

    To improve and stream line service and save $ I offer the below:
    Build Roads, (Sitka to Chatham) and Juneau Access
    Eliminate Food Service, or at least re-open the Bars!
    Keep the ferries running to Main-line Ports only!
    Homer – Kodiak
    Kechikan, Wrangell, Petersburg, Juneau.(see above road suggestions for beyond Juneau)

    Require that Tony Knowles apologize for his silly fast ferry debacle and that no Democrat will ever again try to garner the greenie vote with such feckless decisions.

    Wayne Coogan- Ferry Coffee is terrible! It is punishment to drink that battery acid.

  15. Good on ya Chuck. The only voice here that kept me from throwing up until I saw the request for money from the woman who wrote this one sided and disparaging article.
    1.5 percent doesn’t come close to covering the rise in the cost of living in Alaska and yet all people could focus on is free and probably really shitty coffee. Self serving A hole’s.


  17. Hardly a victory – 1.5 percent raise / year seems almost symbolic – but refunds of $3.2 million will be the real kicker impacting operations – that (in my opinion) will prove to be very, very short-sighted!

    A 3% raise over 3 years and concessions on contributions towards health care doesn’t really amount to much when your company doesn’t have to ability to operate, giving you the same hours as before.

    The Government still retains the right to sue the IBU for the strike they regarded as illegal as well. Seems so much like a ‘I just cut my nose to spite my face’ action, sadly – hurting many families!

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