Strike update: State has refunded $584,000 in ferry tickets

Photo by Norman Skan, Ketchikan


The Alaska Department of Transportation has refunded more than $584,000 in ferry tickets and freight fares, and is helping stranded travelers find private carriers to move themselves and their cars between ports to ease the inconvenience of the sudden strike of the Inland Boatman’s Union, which shut down the State ferry system on Wednesday.

The strike is indefinite.

That $584,000 will now go to the private sector carriers along the coastline as the State has enlisted the help of companies such as Alaska Marine Lines and others, said Commissioner of Administration Kelly Tshibaka today in a phone call with reporters. Other carriers that are picking up passengers include Alaska Air, Harris Air, Taquan Air, Alaska Seaplanes, and Allen Marine.

DOT is allowing stranded travelers who are without funds for high-season hotels to simply remain onboard the vessels, but no meal services are available. Two other ferry unions are not striking, but the IBU is in charge of meals.

The strike of the Inland Boatman’s Union may have been sudden, but it was calculated for this week, the beginning of the Southeast Alaska State Fair, when the sudden lack of ferries would exact the most amount of harm on communities and economies across Southeast Alaska. There are Boy Scout troops trying to get to the Yukon River, and hunters heading to the Interior for scheduled hunting trips. All are being inconvenienced by the IBU.

The union could have waited two hours to call the strike, and if so, the Columbia, which was in Ketchikan, would have already been underway to Bellingham. Instead, those travelers have been stranded.

As the private sector begins to adjust to getting people and freight where they need to go, it now has a small window of opportunity to show what private carriers can do if they don’t have to compete with state-subsidized ferries.

Alaska Airlines has rerouted one of their flights so it can take students from Juneau, where they had been at Echo Cove Bible Camp, back to their homes in Wrangell. Allen Marine has added new schedules for the Southeast Alaska State Fair.

The inconvenience caused by the union, and the lives that may be lost due to the union action, underscores the need for more roads in Southeast Alaska, particularly the road from Juneau to Katzehin.

[Read: DOT going ahead with road, dock at Cascade Point]

Private landing crafts that work as fish tenders may be called into service to run groceries into towns such as Angoon and Elfin Cove. Those companies that have Coast Guard certification to move passengers might find themselves adding runs to and from Northern Lynn Canal communities to help people get to the fair.

Commissioner Tshibaka today said that one reason the strike is illegal is because the IBU included an item on their strike justification that made the entire strike an unfair labor practice. That is the item relating to the Cost of Living Differential. She said the entire strike needs to be called off because of that.

She also said that her department has been contacted by many members of the IBU who disagree with the strike.

Tshibaka said the IBU is demanding free health care, getting paid for hours they are not working, the power to dictate their own schedules, and unprecedented wage increases. These items are tough for a state that is in a budgetary crisis, she said.

“The State has come a long way in trying to reach resolution,” Tshibaka said, and asked IBU to return to the bargaining table and allow a federal mediator to help the two sides come to an agreement.


  1. Dunleavy just keeps saving us money.
    The lawsuits are free.
    The tuition money will magically come back.
    The grants from the fired UA faculty will somehow still flow
    The road money will come from the transportation fairy.
    The fisheries will continue to make a profit once they’ve been eliminated.
    The economy will speed ahead once the people with good jobs sell their houses.
    Don’t loose faith — remember that these are the painless efficiencies he promised. We’re correcting the spending problem! To heck with those silly economists who tells us that education is an investment and not “spending”. The economists are clearly biased because they went to a university.
    Heck of a job Dunleavy! Keep on winning!

  2. I almost forgot to mention that the no bid contracts are also free! I think it’s great that the governor has decided to pay King economics $150 an hour for analyses he already posts on twitter for free.

    • Adam, where were you when Gov Bill Walker gave a no bid contract worth nearly $850,000 per year to a friend to run the AGDC? Where were you?

  3. Oh! The AIDEA downgrade is yet another example how cuts save money. Because a state budget is just like a home budget.

  4. @Adam -> the world’s not ending, you’ll be okay, it’s a 12% cut back to 2005 levels.. the world worked fine prior to 2005. The more the spending machine cries, the more convinced many become that these cuts are healthy. This isn’t a debate about whether higher education needs funding, it’s a criticism of how the higher education institutions have been spending their money. Same with the Marine Highway.
    If your goal is to change opinions on this website, you’d get more mileage without the alarmist attitude and the sarcasm.

    • I’ve adopted a tone works in the context of this comment section which is full of all caps rants and confident assertions sans evidence but I’m more than happy to switch modes when someone seems to be authentically interested in an exchange of ideas and/or seems willing to be persuaded by evidence or argument.
      Thanks for the reply.
      “This isn’t a debate about whether higher education needs funding, it’s a criticism of how the higher education institutions have been spending their money. ”
      It really isn’t — it’s not really a debate. It’s a series of budgetary actions. If I take 40 percent of your income and tell you to adjust your lifestyle we’re not really “debating” are we? Neither is it a return to 2005 levels funding it’s about a 40 percent cut from the university. (on top of cuts from previous years) It’s a stunning amount. If you closed UAA it wouldn’t cover the cuts. If you close every rural campus you only get 35 million.
      But don’t listen to me, listen to Moody’s — by putting the university at near junk status it’s saying that the ship is headed towards the rocks. Or listen to NWCCU — who says that the university could lose its accreditation.
      It’s not alarmist to say that the ferries aren’t running. Or that state had its bond rating lowered to “poor” or “don’t do business there”. Or that rural electricity rates or going to skyrocket.
      And I suspect you know my sources for those assertions but if you don’t I’ll provide links.

      • Adam, read the Fisher Report dtd 2011 which told the University System it had better consolidate, reduce overhead because it could not count on the extravagant state funding in the future. The Board of Regents and the UA Administration pulled an ostrich-like head-in-the-sand response. Unfortunately, many of the nonprofits, crony capitalists and the UA consider their funding “entitlements” and we all know what happens when one tries to claw back an entitlement.

        • I’ll be brief because this this thread is about to expire. I’ll read the report but from the “extravagant”
          framing I suspect I’ll think what I usually do — that it’s a report written by someone who doesn’t believe the state should fund education.
          Will you in return read a report on how universities boost the economy and create more wealth than they consume?

    • Liberals like Adam are quick to point to the failure of their ideas but only as proof of the need for MORE liberalism. Liberalism truly is a sickness.

  5. Do glad you agree, Adam. All the little whiners and moaners, who have been sucking on the big Alaska teet can start peddling down to the lower 48.

  6. Fire their a—, Big Mike. Privatize the ferry system. Watch the little cowards paddle their kayaks south. DUNLEAVY STRONG!

  7. These people have some of the best jobs in the State of Alaska. They should be ashamed of themselves for the greed that they are so arrogantly displaying. And they should all be fired and replaced with new employees who appreciate what they have.

  8. I remember when the air traffic controllers went on strike. Time for Governor Dunleavy to take the same action President Reagan took when the air traffic controllers went on their illegal strike. Fire them all.

  9. There is a “no strike” clause in their contract. If the union considers that part of the contract unenforceable due to failing negotiations, then apparently the entire contract is nullified. Hire new employees to do the job.

  10. So, the House Transportation Committee is going to meet in Cordova today. We know that they aren’t taking the ferry there since the one union went on strike forcing the system to shut down. Maybe the committee will ask the people in Cordova if they are still against a road to Cordova now?
    Isn’t it wonderful to be held hostage by a bunch of very well paid union workers who are just making it easier for the state to drop the whole ferry system.

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