IBU calls strike, State says it would be an illegal strike


The Inland Boatman’s Union has called a strike, as a result of the impasse between the State and the union.  Word has reached Must Read Alaska that the ferries are being tied up as they reach their next port.

A letter from Commissioner of Administration Kelly Tshibaka was sent to the IBU workforce today saying that she hopes the strike will not take place before efforts to reach an agreement are “fully exhausted,”

“In my opinion, a strike should be an action of last resort, not first resort,” she wrote.

Tshibaka’s letter continued:

“As you may know, the Department of Administration (DOA) has been in negotiations for a new contract with the IBU for some time now. While no new contract agreement has yet been reached, I hope that the IBU will continue meeting with the State and we will soon have our agreement.

“On multiple occasions over the last week, in a spirit of good faith, we asked IBU leadership for another meeting with us and the Federal Mediator and suggesting the State had some new ideas to bridge our differences. The IBU has chosen to not meet with us, and instead focus more on an unnecessary strike vote.

“If we have a strike, the Alaska Marine Highway system may well be shut down and many State residents and visitors may well be adversely affected, some in a very serious and hurtful way. It is unfortunate that such unnecessary harm will be put upon on our friends, fellow employees, neighbors and visitors. We urge all employees to report for work as scheduled.

“We have been asked what happens to employees’ pay and benefits during a strike and how long thestrike may last. First, an employee on strike will, of course, receive no pay from the State for any time spent on strike. Second, employees on strike may have to pay all their premium costs for their health insurance through COBRA, or possibly lose their entire coverage, depending upon circumstances. Third, we have no idea how long a strike will last.

“Finally, the State believes that any strike is unlawful and unprotected. If this is true, then striking employees could be subject to discipline, including termination, for striking in support of illegal bargaining proposals.

“If you have questions about the open issues in the negotiations, please contact your IBU leadership.

“I hope this communication answers some of the questions you may have about possible personal impacts of a strike. If you have further questions, please submit them in writing to the Division of Personnel and Labor Relations ([email protected]) for our response and answer.

[Read: State, ferry workers at impasse; strike imminent]


  1. REPLACEMENTS. The Air Traffic Controllers did it in the early 80’s and the NFL a few years later. Everybody and everything can be replaced. There are no indispensibles! I know many boat captains and mates that have the licenses and navigation expertise that could go to work tomorrow. Give the strikers their pink slips…….immediately.

    • President Reagan fired them all. And a new crop of air traffic controllers were born. Not one air mishap during the transition.

    • Give it a break Tim, as it’s not those folks who are striking. Those folks may not cross the picket line-are you suggesting the State hire a bunch of scabs to replace those unwilling to cross those lines.
      I think it goes something like “hope Karma gives you what it is that you want done to others.”

      • Scabs? You must be a real old duffer, Yank. That’s a term from the 50’s. What are you, about 80, or so?

  2. Boy are all those Alaska Ferry IBU workers getting all pissy social media tonight.

    If not for MRAKs great coverage, no one would know the REST of the story! (aka: the TRUTH)

  3. Don Adams – when you say it is fake news, you indict the whole of the article. Do you really mean that SINCE this writing the State and the Union are hammering out a deal? Or do you mean Suzanne has pulled all of this out thin air? Were there no threats of a strike, no dissatisfaction, no rules governing how strikes are handled, no requests to meet., no denials to meet with the State? If there were none of this, then you win. It’s all fake news. But your remark reveals a whole lot more about you than the issue or Suzanne if what was stated was even half true. Feel free to clarify if needed.

  4. Tim, The masters, mates, and pilots are not on strike. Different union. I here all about how there’s so many people to replace striking workers. If so, why are there always vacancies? Why are people denied time off?

    • Could it be because there are so few people in Alaska who are physically, can pass a background check, and pee in a bottle? Every job the State has with those requirements has recruiting difficulties.

  5. The effective way to deal with a strike by government employees is to fire each one who does not perform adequately at their job and ban them from ever working for the government again. Works every time. The National guard usually fills in until the positions are refilled.

  6. You dont know what you are talking about. Just because you have a 1600 ton Masters or a Mates Tugboat license does not Qualify you to work on a ferry. They have a long list of Requirements, Hell even the Dishwasher has to have certifications . Every Crew Member is required to have a long list of Requirements that are mandated by
    S O L A S and the U S Coast Guard.

  7. The railroad workers once called for a strike, President Truman is said to have summoned the head of the RR workers union for a conference. Evidently Truman delivered a terse message which went along the lines of “your guys are going to look pretty silly being marched to work at gun point by a squad of infantry men, no labor union is going to shut my country down”…

    Guv? Hello? Or do you secretly want to shunt the Ferries?

    • It’s all simple when you don’t know what you’re talking about. The RR workers bargain under the Railway Labor Act which gives the President power to dictate a 90 day cooling off period before a strike. In some instances the President can even Nationalize an industry to prevent a strike from shutting it down.

      The marine unions bargain under Alaska’s Public Employment Relations Act (PERA). Employees in police, fire, jails, and hospitals cannot strike (AS 2340.200 (a)(1) and have access to interest arbitration to set their contract terms. Employees in transportation, snow removal, or other work that might directly effect public safety have the right to strike but on a showing of a threat to public safety can be enjoined back to work and are then entitled to interest arbitration (AS 23.40.200 (a)(2). All other employees have an unlimited right to strike upon a valid state of impasse in bargaining so long as there isn’t a valid contract in effect (AS 23.40.200(a)(3) and supporting decisional authority.

      The unlicensed deck employees represented by IBU have at various times been considered either subject to Section (a)(2) or (a)(3). I always thought that it would be very difficult to demonstrate to a Court that a ferry strike was a threat to public safety so it is really a distinction without a difference. On the off-chance that the State got an injunction and went to interest arbitration it would get its head handed to it as it did with the Correctional Officers because the comparables are going to be the sweetheart contracts the Walker Administration gave away on its way out the door.

      The crowd calling the shots for the State has managed to do what people managing State Labor Relations have scrupulously avoided for 42 years; a ferry strike in summer. You use every device you have to keep them at work from May until September and if they want to strike in winter, you help them and save the State money.

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