Longshoremen hold cruise ship protest

Members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 200 picketed at Marine Park in Juneau today (Monday) while the cruise ship Westerdam was anchored in Gastineau Channel.

The cruise ship Westerdam anchored in Gastineau Channel Monday. (Photo by Casey Kelly/KTOO)

Union members say cruise lines have repeatedly broken the law by not calling a contract stevedoring company to perform dock work – such as tying up tender boats and loading cargo – when vessels are anchored offshore. Tender boats are used to ferry passengers to and from shore and to load cargo when cruise ships anchor in port rather than tie up to the docks.

Dennis Young is president of ILWU Local 200 Unit 16 in Juneau. He says the cruise lines have been using crew members from the ships – some of whom aren’t US citizens – to perform the long shore work. Young says the union is working with US Customs and Border Protection and Alaska’s Congressional delegation to end the practice.

“They can continue to stall spit and sputter, but we will be taking this as far as we have to to protect our U.S. long shore workers’ rights,” Young says.

Alaska Cruise Association President John Binkley says the cruise lines are complying with federal law by using U.S. citizens to perform the work.

“I’m certainly not an attorney, but I don’t know of any federal law that requires you to use a specific union to do work,” Binkley says.

He says the longshoremen don’t have a right to the work under their contract.

“My understanding is that through the collective bargaining process, they’ve agreed not to do the work on the tenders and the smaller vessels and that was bargained away for other wages or benefits over the years,” says Binkley. “And now I think they want to go outside the collective bargaining system to try and take over that work.”

Young says that’s simply not true.

ILWU Local 200 Unit 16 President Dennis Young chats with a cruise ship passenger Monday at Marine Park. (Photo by Casey Kelly/KTOO)

“They’re picking and choosing how to follow the contract when they hire a stevedoring company to perform U.S. long shore work, and they’re picking and choosing how they’re going to follow immigration act law,” Young says.

The longshoremen picketed at Marine Park until the Westerdam left Juneau. They plan a similar protest in Sitka tomorrow (Tuesday) and Ketchikan at some point in the future. They were joined this afternoon by nurses at Bartlett Regional Hospital – who are also represented by the ILWU – as well as members of other unions, including state employee unions and the Inland Boatmen’s Union.

The captain of the Westerdam notified passengers of the protest by letter. Most ignored the picketers, who did not try to engage them.