Sen. Jesse Kiehl, D-Juneau, speaks during a rally of state union workers in front of the Capitol on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Sen. Jesse Kiehl, D-Juneau, speaks during a rally of state union workers in front of the Capitol on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Unions rally outside Capitol, protest job cuts

Sen. Kiehl encourages crowd to make voices heard

Union employees and supporters gathered in front of the Alaska State Capitol to let the Dunleavy administration and Legislature know they oppose the proposed cuts to the operating budget that would eliminate hundreds of jobs. Many state workers belong to unions.

“2-4-6-8, We need to save our state,” the group of about 150 people chanted at noon.

The ferry system is facing a $97 million cut that could eliminate 253 union jobs, prompting the Inland Boatman’s Union to participate in the rally too. Most union members that were approached were apprehensive to speak to the Empire, and others would only do so off-record.

But they made their voices heard heard with their signs in front of the Capitol. Conan Leegard, an IBU member who stands 6-foot, 11-inches tall, held a sign that read, “Stand Tall for Ferries.” Another IBU member carried a sign that read,”Alaskans for the Ferries, Ferries for Alaskans.”

IBU member Robb Arnold, who has worked for the ferry system sincce 2006, said he has never seen better turnout from the local IBU members.

“I was very impressed by the turnout,” Arnold said. “The Inland Boatman’s Union really cares. People are seeing the importance of what it means to the the community.”

“We want to work with the governor. It’s one of our main messages,” Arnold added.

Among the rally’s speakers was Sen. Jesse Kiehl, D-Juneau. Kiehl said the proposed job cuts would “see the neediest left out in the cold.”

“We’re in a fight for Alaska’s future,” Kiehl told the crowd from the steps of the Capitol. “So if we want healthy families, and a prosperous economy, the kind of Alaska where want to live, or want to raise our kids or we want grandkids to do well, we can’t afford this budget!”

Kiehl reminded the crowd the budget proposal is not set in stone.

“Here’s the beautiful thing when they founded the American Republic, 2oo and some-odd years ago. They’d read about tyrants,” Kiehl said. “They know you don’t put all the power in any one person, or their out-of-state budget director. This proposal is just that. It’s a proposal. Now we get to work, your elected leaders.”

Kiehl encouraged the crowd to call their representatives and senators and make their voices heard.

“Let your elected leaders know, Alaskans can’t afford the Dunleavy budget,” Kiehl said.

Laura Mulgrew, who is president of the Juneau Education Association and member of the National Education Association, spoke too, saying this is an attack on education. Dunleavy’s budget proposal would cut more than $300 million from the state’s education budget, which is about a quarter of the education budget. The Base Student Allocation would be lowered from about $5,930 per student to $4,800 per student. The Juneau School District alone would lose more than $13 million, which would result in a cutting more than 100 teachers and staff.

“The price of a barrel of oil is no way to determine the worth of our students,” Mulgrew told the crowd.

Alaska State Employees Association Local 52 President Dawn Burdick, said she was concerned for the budget.

“I’m here to encourage our legislators to support working families, fund contracts, and support our state workers,” Burdick said.

Alaska AFL-CIO President Vince Beltrami, was not at the rally but issued a written statement Tuesday.

”We built Alaska. We love Alaska. We educate Alaskans. We protect Alaska. And now we are going to have to step up and protect her from this attack on our state and our values. Alaskans, regardless of party want the same things: good schools, safe communities, a high quality of life and a safe place to raise our kids. This budget fails in every respect,” Beltrami said.


• Contact reporter Kevin Baird at 523-2258 or kbaird@juneauempire.com.


About 150 union workers and their supporters rallied in support of state wokers, in front of the Alaska State Capitol. Members of the Inland Boatman’s Union were there to support the Alaska Marine Highway System. (Kevin Baird | Juneau Empire)

About 150 union workers and their supporters rallied in support of state wokers, in front of the Alaska State Capitol. Members of the Inland Boatman’s Union were there to support the Alaska Marine Highway System. (Kevin Baird | Juneau Empire)

More in News

Jasmine Chavez, a crew member aboard the Quantum of the Seas cruise ship, waves to her family during a cell phone conversation after disembarking from the ship at Marine Park on May 10. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Ships in port for the week of June 22

Here’s what to expect this week.

Participants in a pro-choice abortion rally gather outside the Governor’s Residence on Saturday to demand a pro-choice flag flying at the entrance be taken down. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Pro-choice abortion protesters march to Governor’s Residence to demand removal of pro-life flag

Rally on second anniversary of U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision also focuses on fall election.

Eddie Petrie shovels gravel into a mine cart as fast as possible during the men’s hand mucking competition as part of Juneau Gold Rush Days on Saturday at Savikko Park. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Mucking, trucking, chucking and yukking it up at Juneau Gold Rush Days

Logging competitions, live music, other events continue Sunday at Savikko Park.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Thursday, June 20, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Pins supporting the repeal of ranked choice voting are seen on April 20 at the Republican state convention in Anchorage. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
State judge upholds most fines against group seeking repeal of Alaska ranked choice voting

An Anchorage Superior Court judge has ruled that opponents of Alaska’s ranked… Continue reading

Joshua Midgett and Kelsey Bryce Riker appear on stage as the emcees for MixCast 2023 at the Crystal Saloon. (Photo courtesy Juneau Ghost Light Theatre)
And now for someone completely different: Familiar faces show new personas at annual MixCast cabaret

Fundraiser for Juneau Ghost Light Theatre on Saturday taking place amidst week of local Pride events

Jasz Garrett / Juneau Empire
A section of Angoon along the coast is seen on June 14. Angoon was destroyed by the U.S. Navy in 1882; here is where they first pulled up to shore.
Long-awaited U.S. Navy apology for 1882 bombardment will bring healing to Angoon

“How many times has our government apologized to any American Native group?”

Juneau Mayor Beth Weldon announced this week she plans to seek a third three-year term. (Juneau Empire file photo)
Mayor Beth Weldon seeking third term amidst personal and political challenges

Low mill rate, more housing cited by lifelong Juneau resident as achievements during past term.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Wednesday, June 19, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Most Read