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Longshoreman continue protesting at cruise ship docks

Cruise industry spokesman says no rules are being broken

Posted: July 6, 2012 - 12:52am

Longshoremen union members in Juneau will continue protests at certain cruise lines that do not hire union workers to tie up cruise ships in Southeast ports, but the cruise lines say they are doing nothing wrong by hiring non-union labor.

International Longshore Warehouse Union members protested Monday in front of a Celebrity Cruise ship, one of several cruse lines union members say avoid hiring union workers.

John Binkley, president of the Alaska Cruise Association, said nothing has changed since the union protested in 2011 (goo.gl/JGstU).

Cruise lines, Binkley said are “not required to use union labor.”

Cruise lines are following the rules, Binkley said.

“We are talking about the smaller ships that lighter the passengers from ship to shore,” Binkley said. “I thought it was pretty well resolved.”.

Cruise lines do work with the longshoremen’s union, Binkley said. “It is an agreement that has worked many years and is seems to have worked fine.”

Union members have a different view of the overall situation.

“We haven’t gained an inch,” Southeast Stevedoring’s Lester Cole said. “They have gone to hiring American labor now but they are still staying away from the longshore union, saying they don’t need to hire us.”

Cruise lines must hire legal U.S. workers. Here Alaska Cruise Association and Alaska Customs agree with union members.

But there is no rule that requires a cruise line to hire union, the organizations have said.

“But now we are still having difficulty getting Customs and Border Patrol to enforce the letter of the law that says foreign flagged vessels are required to contact a contract stevedoring company to hire local U.S. longshoremen,” said Dennis Young, ILWU’s Alaska Longshore Division Unit 16 president and Southeast Area committee member.

Assistant Port Director Jeffery Lisious said U.S. Customs does what it is tasked to do in accordance with the Immigration and Naturalization Act. He said customs monitors people doing work on U.S. soil. People doing work on a dock must be approved to work, Lisious said. However, Lisious admits “it’s a tricky subject.”

Customs has about 130 to 140 employees in Alaska. “60 percent are out meeting aircraft and arriving ships,” Lisious said. “We are insuring all folks are U.S. citizens or authorized to work in the U.S.”

Lisious said customs and border protection does not make the decision whether tying up the shuttle boats is longshore work.

“We still claim that even the tying up of tenders (cruise line passenger transports) is longshore work,” ILWU’s Dennis Young said.

• Contact reporter Russell Stigall at 523-2276 or at russell.stigall@juneauempire.com.

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