Union investigates the legality of White Pass and Yukon Route layoffs

A White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad train in Skagway in 2017. (File photo by Emily Files/KHNS)
A White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad train in Skagway in 2017. (File photo by Emily Files/KHNS)

Skagway’s largest private employer, White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad, laid off 27 workers last week. Now the union representing them is investigating the legality of that decision. All of the former employees are members of the Teamsters Local 959, which represents the majority of the company’s skilled labor workforce.

“I’m working with the legal department right now, I’m looking at the legality of the contract obligations and the legality, the way we can move for them and work out the best deal for our members,” said Teamsters representative Joe Rintala.

Union employees lost their seniority and benefits when their jobs were stricken from the books. Rintala said the average wage for union workers is about $44 an hour. Most employees work eight months out of the year. Some expressed private concerns they would be replaced by a lower cost workforce.

Rintala said he hasn’t seen evidence of union busting from the railroad tour company.

“The company is having a tough time. It hasn’t had any business last year and we’re not sure what’s going to happen this year, but there’s still contractual obligations that they have to follow,” Rintala said.

White Pass and Yukon Route declined to comment on employment matters. The railroad is owned by Survey Point Holdings and cruise-giant Carnival Corporation. It’s considered a local economic bellwether for the tourism economy.

Rintala expects an update from the legal team in the next two weeks.

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