Ferry workers across Alaska are on strike for the sixth day leaving some travelers stranded and workers still walking the picket line.
The Alaska region of the Inlandboatmen’s Union of the Pacific has been meeting with state representatives and a federal mediator to try and bring an end to negotiations that have gone on for nearly three years.
Monday morning, IBU regional vice chair Robb Arnold said that the talks had been going well but that there were a few stumbling blocks that had caused an impasse. He would not go into detail as to what those were. Arnold said early Monday that further talks with the mediator had not yet been scheduled but IBU sent out a press release in the afternoon saying both sides had met with the mediator that morning.
The press release described the talks with the federal mediator Beth Schindler as “very positive and constructive.” IBU regional Director Trina Arnold said in the release that, “There were positive steps in our meeting that should allow both sides to reach a solution.”
“We want to go back to work,” Arnold told the Empire Monday morning. “We’re not asking for much. We just want a fair contract.”
Just before noon, about two dozen IBU workers and supporters marched through downtown Juneau with drums and chimes, chanting and singing. Some of the marchers wore fake angel wings while others shook hands and took pictures with onlookers.
“We’re the bus service for all the small communities in Alaska,” said Emily Klimek, an IBU member and one of the marchers. “Without us, a lot of them will starve.”
The union has been fighting for a contract for three years, Klimek said.
“They said we have to pay for our own health insurance,” while other state employees have health insurance included in their benefits package, Klimek said.
“We can’t live with what they’re doing to us, and if we don’t stand up, who’s going to be next?”
While talks are progressing, some travelers are still stranded, waiting for ferry service to resume.
Anna Boshka and her family were in route from their Idaho to Prince William Island where she and her husband, both teachers, are moving for work. They had hoped to have arrived in their new home by now but the strike forced them to stop in Prince Rupert, British Colombia.
Now Boshka and her husband, two daughters ages 10 and 8, dog and two cats, are staying at a campground in Prince Rupert, waiting for the strike to end.
The family was driving with a rented U-Haul trailer which, Boshka said, would be too expensive for the family to ship by private barge.
However, despite their frustrations, Boshka said her sympathies lie with the striking workers.
“I know what it’s like to have your livelihood threatened, my heart is absolutely with them,” she said.
• Contact reporter Peter Segall at 523-2228 or email@example.com.