If you think losing ferry service during a temporary strike is tough for Alaska’s rural villages and fishing towns, imagine our communities losing ferry service altogether.

Full stop.

Never forget that Governor Mike Dunleavy just cut 75% in state funding in one year for the Alaska Marine Highway Service after campaigning on a direct promise to support the ferries. Those cuts — even tempered by the legislature’s reduction to 50% — are drawing blood.

And that blood is on Mike Dunleavy’s hands.

Exhausted by years of uncertainty, stalled negotiations, and now the looming end of the ferries altogether, members of the Inland Boatman’s Union voted to strike for the first time in 42 years. Risk it all now, they figured, or lose it all later. Alaskans should back them up by vocally supporting the marine highway, its workers, and challenging the governor to do the same.

Exhausted by years of uncertainty, stalled negotiations, and now the looming end of the ferries altogether, members of the Inland Boatman’s Union voted to strike for the first time in 42 years. Risk it all now, they figured, or lose it all later. Alaskans should back them up by vocally supporting the marine highway, its workers, and challenging the governor to do the same.

While management of the system can and should improve, the union is right that retaining strong public ownership and support for AMHS by the state of Alaska is best for workers and local communities.

The economic data is crystal clear that Alaska’s iconic ferries are a solid investment for the state, which makes a 133% return on investment for every dollar spent. In 2014 our ferry dollars employed over 1,000 Alaskans in 44 communities across the state, including at least 300 in Ketchikan where ferries are docked, constructed, and maintained. (And unlike oil jobs, 95% of ferry workers are full time Alaska residents who spend earnings in state.)

The transportation data is also clear — not only are ferries a lifeline for Alaska’s coastal communities, fishing towns, and remote villages for health services, shopping, commerce, and school sports and activities, but a significant amount of AMHS vehicle and passenger traffic lands in Anchorage, Fairbanks, and other railbelt cities.

Support our workers

Voting on the decision to strike is never easy for union members, since by their very nature strikes function to disrupt and challenge the status quo. But Alaskans must recognize that the Inland Boatman’s Union is made up of our fellow community members who have been left with few options — we owe them our solidarity and support.

But Alaskans must recognize that the Inland Boatman’s Union is made up of our fellow community members who have been left with few options — we owe them our solidarity and support.

The silver lining is that in standing up for their own dignity and livelihood, the IBU is turning us away from quietly accepting the destruction of our transportation network, and leading us toward a robust campaign to defend the Alaska Marine Highway.

Already, other marine unions — including longshoremen around the state — are vocalizing their support, here’s how you can do the same.

Here’s how you can help:

  1. Call the governor’s office (907–465–3500) and state your support for the IBU and insist that the state negotiate in good faith. Ask for full restoration of ferry funding.
  2. Contact the Administration Commissioner’s office (907) 269–6293 kelly.tshibaka@alaska.gov and encourage them to negotiate with workers in good faith. Explain why restoring ferry service quickly is a priority. Pressure on this office has been effective in other labor disputes.
  3. Support ferry workers by speaking positively about the strike and redirecting complaints back to the governor, who holds the power to end the strike at anytime. Every “sky is falling” story about service interruptions demonstrates the need for the strike in the first place! Remember, risk it all now or lose it all later — we choose.
  4. Make your support visible and undeniable. Leave positive comments on social media stories, and add a profile frame supporting ferry workers.
  5. Remember — good picket line etiquette means no one crosses that line, joining the picket is welcome but follow the lead of the IBU, and don’t forget to honk your support early and often.
  6. New! Help keep our striking workers fed on the picket line. This GoFundMe goes directly to meals and snacks — lets keep morale up and people happy!