Alaska ferries resume sailing after striking workers ratify new contract

The Tazlina, Malaspina and LeConte moored in Juneau during the strike on July 25, 2019 (Photo by David Purdy/KTOO)

The first state ferries resumed sailing Sunday following the ratification of a contract by striking members of the Alaska Marine Highway System’s largest union.

More than 400 members of the Inlandboatmen’s Union of the Pacific went on strike July 24, paralyzing the system for 11 days, which affected thousands of travelers during the busiest season.

Transportation Commissioner John MacKinnon told reporters Friday that tickets for at least 8,300 passengers and 2,300 vehicles were refunded at a cost of about $3.2 million.

“That is a big revenue hit to the system, and you know that loss of revenue will impact our ability to operate,” MacKinnon said.

But following marathon mediation talks last week, state negotiators and the IBU reached a deal late Thursday on a three-year contract.

According to IBU Vice Chair Robert Arnold, members won a 3% raise over three years and received concessions on how much they’d contribute towards the health care plan and when.

In a brief statement Sunday, Arnold expressed gratitude for the public support. He also thanked Southeast legislators who showed up daily to keep negotiations moving.

He singled out Sen. Jesse Kiehl. The Juneau Democrat said Friday he and his staff had done what they could.

“We booked meeting rooms in legislative space so it was neutral ground and we made coffee and emptied wastebaskets and whatever we could do, without breaking the rules, to first get the parties talking, and then keep them talking,” Kiehl said.

Alaska’s last ferry strike was in 1977.

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