BELLINGHAM (July 31, 2019) — Workers represented by the Inlandboatmen’s Union/ILWU on Alaska’s Marine Highway ferry system have been on strike for more than a week, severing a critical link between rural and coastal Alaska towns that depend on the boats for transportation as well as groceries, food, and other necessities. Dozens of supporters of the striking IBU ferry workers rallied Monday in Bellingham, which is also served by the system.
The strike took a dire turn Monday with Reuters reporting that a federal mediator has suspended contract talks between the ferry workers and the state government, controlled by Republican governor Mike Dunleavy. That means there’s no end in site to the work stoppage and the effects are starting to ripple throughout the Alaska economy and the fishing industry in particular.
The strike began on July 24 as IBU members seek a new contract amid deep budget cuts for the state-owned ferry network. The last official contract expired in 2017, with the workers operating under a series of interim agreements since then. This is the first strike by IBU’s ferry workers since 1977.
The disruption is happening during the peak ferry season, particularly for the route out of Bellingham. In August, the ferry is scheduled to dock in Bellingham each Friday and two Saturdays.