Presidential candidates show support for striking ferry workers
As Sen. Bernie Sanders heads to Detroit, his thoughts are also on Alaska.
On Monday, Sanders weighed in on the strike by hundreds of ferry workers with the Inlandboatmen’s Union of the Pacific on Twitter.
“They are striking for better working conditions and fully-funded ferry service for the community,” he said. “I stand with the IBU in this and urge [Gov. Mike Dunleavy] to bargain in good faith with these workers.”
Sanders is the latest presidential candidate to weigh in on the strike.
Former Vice President Joe Biden was the first to voice his support of the workers on social media last Friday. On Saturday, Sen. Kamala Harris also tweeted about the strike.
“IBU is on strike to ensure this lifeline for Alaskans will continue to serve communities from Ketchikan to Kodiak,” Biden said. “The governor must restore full funding immediately.”
“Alaskans deserve safe transportation options and the Inland Boatmen's Union and its members deserve fair wages and safe working conditions,” Harris said.
The strike has posed problems for many passengers who found themselves trapped. Effects of the work stoppage are also being felt by those in communities that rely on the ferry service for their businesses.
Most of the salmon handled by Copper River Seafoods comes from Cordova. It arrives in Whittier by ferry before it is processed in Anchorage.
The longer the ferry terminals remains closed, the closer the company gets to moving more of its processing to Washington state, which could be bad news for local workers. In the meantime, the company is flying its fish to Anchorage.
"We will have to get leaner to make up the cost increase of freight to get our fish to Anchorage," said Copper River Seafoods spokesperson Marty Weiser. "If our cost in freight's going to go up, we may need to bring in more automation to keep our fish at the same price, keep our margins.”
IBU and the state have been negotiating a ferry workers contract since 2016, but the union hasn’t accepted the state’s terms. While some ferry workers say they have no choice but to strike, the state says the strike is illegal and has warned those who walked off the job that they could be fired.
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