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Juneau longshoremen's union to picket cruise ships today

Posted: August 28, 2011 - 9:29pm
Tender vessels from the Coral Princess and the Norwegian Pearl transport passengers to the downtown waterfront area last summer. The Juneau longshoremen's union maintains that cruise ships are illegally using their own crew, not in the union, to perform longshoremen duties.  Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire
Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire
Tender vessels from the Coral Princess and the Norwegian Pearl transport passengers to the downtown waterfront area last summer. The Juneau longshoremen's union maintains that cruise ships are illegally using their own crew, not in the union, to perform longshoremen duties.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union is set to picket today over non-use of their union members by many of the major cruise ship companies that visit Juneau and other parts of Alaska.

“Basically there is an immigration law that basically defines U.S. longshore work when foreign hulled vessels are in U.S. waters,” Alaska Longshore Division Local 200 Unit 16 president Dennis Young said. Young is also the Southeast Area committeeman for all of Alaska. “Those vessels have an obligation to contact contract stevedoring companies when they are in port areas in any U.S. waters to hire U.S. longshoremen to perform longshore functions.”

Young described those longshoremen functions as tying up and casting off vessels, operating any equipment integral to the cruise vessels or not, as well as transport and movement of cargo onboard the vessels.

“Our contract acknowledges and enforces that law,” Young said.

Young stated that within the cruise ship industry there has been blatant disregard of a form in INA: ACT 258 (Limitations On Performance Of Longshore work By Alien Crewmen) that is required to be filled out and given to the Customs and Border Patrol at the first port of entry.

That I-418 form has a simple question of “will any crew aboard this vessel perform U.S. longshore work. Yes or no?”

“The cruise ship companies, since the dawn of time, have been coming into Alaska and have always checked NO,” Young said. “That right there is a blatant disregard and violation of those filings.”

Young maintains that cruise ships have not contacted contract stevedores nor employed U.S. longshoremen for duties including tender boat movements and cargo across the docks, even in Juneau as early as five years ago.

“We have been struggling and fighting with the industry to ensure the proper workforce is performing the operations,” Young said. “We have been successful a bit in Juneau, but we are still struggling in Ketchikan and Sitka. Even some of the larger ports up and down the U.S. coast struggle with this.”

Cruise Line Agencies of Alaska port manager Andrew Greene stated, “I think the only comment I would have is that the ships are using U.S. labor to tie up their tenders. They are using U.S. personnel.”

Young said the problem occurs when vessels anchor and use their lifeboats, or tender boats, to bring passengers ashore. The cruise ship uses its own crew to dock the tender boats and disembark the passengers. The cruise lines tried to circumvent the longshoremen’s complaints by using their American citizen crew on the vessels, but those crews are not in the longshoremen’s union according to Young.

Greene acknowledged that it was probably true the U.S. citizens on the vessels were not in the longshoremen’s union.

“My only comment is that they are using U.S. personnel and U.S. labor is doing the work,” Greene said. “They are crewmembers on the ship. They are using some other U.S. labor on the ship, they are using U.S. people.”

Young stated that Customs and Border Protection, the police force that enforces the letter of the law for the cruise ships, has acknowledged that cruise ships have not met compliance with the law.

“I can’t speak for Customs and Border Protection or the Department of Labor,” Young said. “We have gone back to D.C. to have face-to-face meetings with our delegation representatives. All three reached out to the DOL and CBP. They both spent roughly two months pointing fingers at each other to determine who was responsible. Basically it was determined by DOL that CBP, for lack of a better word, is the police force that enforces the letter of the law to that act.”

Young stated that two weeks ago the CBP acknowledged that cruise ships have not been filing the I-418 forms correctly.

“Basically someone had stated as long as there is an American worker doing the work than it is not their problem,” Young said. “That their only concern was whether they were an illegal or not.”

Said Young, “It is U.S. longshoremen’s work. It isn’t U.S. workers on board, it isn’t a bus driver or dish server, the companies are to contact a contract stevedore company. The law is specific, it is U.S. longshoremen’s work, and it isn’t the American crew.”

A representative of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Juneau said the issue would be addressed today. CBP Area Port Director in Anchorage Lance Robinson stated they would be working with the longshoremen union and the cruise ship industry to get the issue resolved.

“There is really no other comment we can make,” Robinson said. “We are working closely with them to get this resolved.”

Alaska Cruise Association president John Binkley stated via email that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection has recently determined that ship crewmembers who tie up the small tender boats must be U.S. citizens.

“In accordance with this ruling the cruise lines will use only trained and qualified US citizens for this task,” Binkley wrote. “For the last 30 years of ships bringing visitors to Alaska communities they have used qualified crewmembers regardless of nationality. After protest from the Longshoremens Union, the CBP ruling has changed that policy.”

Four cruise ships will be in port today: Carnival-owned Princess Cruise Line’s 951-foot Golden Princess (2,600 passenger capacity, 1,200 crew - European officers, International crew) registered in Bermuda; Celebrity Cruise Line’s 965-foot Infinity (2,046 passenger, 999 crew – Greek officers, International crew) registered in the Bahamas; and Holland America Line’s 951-foot Westerdam and 936-foot Zuiderdam (both 1,916 passenger capacity and 817 crew - Dutch officers, Indonesian and Filipino crew) and registered in the Netherlands. One of the HAL vessels will be at anchor.

Young said they plan to start the picket at 1:30 or 2 p.m. today and will have support from other organizations. Young said that would include off-duty longshoremen as well as longshoremen from the Lower 48 and across Alaska, as well as other maritime unions and rank and file union members across Juneau.

“We will have a labor friendly presence,” Young said. “We have no desire, and we are not going to, have any action against the cruise ships that are at the docks. We will be tying up those ships just as we normally do as well as our utility guys that perform the gangway movements and cargo operations aboard those vessels. They will be on the job and working just as they did last Monday.”

Young stated that, while many of the unions may disperse by 3 p.m., the longshoremen plan to stay from the time the cruise ship drops its anchor until that anchor is raised again.

“And we will be there every week after that,” Young said. “And I plan to fly to Sitka and do the exact same thing in Sitka because they will have two vessels that anchor there, and then the next vessel that comes to anchor in Ketchikan we will have the exact same demonstration. I think it will wake up a lot of these companies as well as the U.S. government.”

• Contact reporter Klas Stolpe at 523-2263 or at klas.stolpe@juneauempire.com.

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