By ART CHANCE
I had some pretty harsh words for State Labor Relations and Law over the Inland Boatmen’s Union strike. I stand by my words that they got blindsided and were completely unprepared for the strike.
The first time the IBU mouthed the word “impasse,” the State should have filed an unfair labor practice and had them ordered back to bargaining. I’m told that the Department of Law was afraid the Alaska Labor Relations Agency would order the State to arbitration. I hope nobody in the Department of Law was giving that utterly stupid advice to the Administration. I’ve been in similar situations and the reality is that your political principals just won’t follow your advice sometimes. Sometimes they don’t even ask; they ask somebody they met at the Baranof Hotel the night before and don’t even bother to ask the people who get paid to do this stuff.
Let’s put all that behind us. They took about an 8 count, pulled themselves up off the floor, and fought back. I’m told that Commissioner Kelly Tshibaka went to the table and pressed for a settlement. Good on her for taking charge.
In my time I’d have never let a union representative near a commissioner; I would rarely even see a union rep myself. You make sure that the union understands that they work themselves up to that meeting, and if they get face to face with an appointee, it had better be a damned big deal.
They haven’t published the text of the tentative agreement that ended the strike against the State ferry system, but I’m told the union got no raise the first year, and 1.5 percent the second and again the third year. The workers will eventually start contributing to their health insurance. One ship crew got free coffee. If the State ended a strike and got a three year agreement on these terms, they fell in the outhouse and came out smelling like a rose.
I’ll reserve my final judgment until they publish the full agreement; you can hide big bucks in the fine print of a labor agreement, but if they got them back to work on the advertised terms, they did one helluva job; good on them.
Art Chance is a retired Director of Labor Relations for the State of Alaska, formerly of Juneau and now living in Anchorage. He is the author of the book, “Red on Blue, Establishing a Republican Governance,” available at Amazon.