I would like to voice my opposition to Senate Bill 182. I’ve worked for Alaska Marine Highway System for 12 years and reside in Juneau. This bill would cut the wages of hard-working Alaskans who spend locally. Since I started with AMHS in 2001, the cumulative inflation is 35.8 percent according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Our wages have not kept up with inflation, which makes this bill doubly regressive. The most obvious reason to not pass this bill is there is no language to bring our wages back to current levels if this bill passes. The logical choice would be to increase non-resident wages to in-state wage levels. The current cost of living difference (COLD) between Anchorage and Seattle is 13.7 percent. The difference between Juneau and Seattle is 14.1 percent. The cost of living index shows a 29.5 percent higher cost of living in Alaska compared to Washington state. Since most of our state maritime employees live statewide, this would be a more accurate comparison to calculate our cost of living. To claim Alaskans no longer need a COLD is disingenuous. Trying to make ends meet is difficult enough without an unwarranted 20 percent pay cut.
AMHS already has a major problem recruiting and retaining maritime employees. Alaska is ranked 42nd on the list of the worst places to make a living. We have lost employees in all maritime unions to better wages, ease of living and employer/employee relationships offered elsewhere. AMHS will be hard-pressed to keep all the ferries running in the summer season. Cutting wages by 20 percent will exacerbate the shortage of employees, costing the state significant overtime wages. According to the state’s own data, which agrees with my personnel wages, deck hand sailors — my particular job — make less than painters, construction workers, firefighters, meter readers, roofers and carpenters, in that order.
Please consider shelving ill-advised bill 182.
James E. Foster