Shipyard workers consider union

Posted: Tuesday, June 05, 2001

KETCHIKAN - Workers at Alaska Ship and Dry Dock could be unionized soon. Piledrivers and Divers Local 2520 is looking to schedule a vote in August on whether to form a union at the Ketchikan shipyard.

About a dozen shipyard employees, mostly welders, approached the union about a year ago, said Jim Strassburg, a union organizer. Since then, interest has grown among the work force, he said.

Shipyard management says a union isn't needed. But Strassburg doesn't agree.

"In all my years in Alaska working, if there is any (employees) that needed a union it is these people," he said. "One guy is working for $12 an hour, the next guy is working for $15 an hour, and the next is working for $19 an hour."

Many out-of-state workers are employed at the shipyard, he said, even though Alaskans are available.

Doug Ward, director of shipyard development for the company, said the shipyard was forced to hire outside workers for some big projects, such as recent improvements to the ferries Columbia and Matanuska.

"Our goal is to have all Alaska employees, but some of these projects require us to bring in outside workers," he said. About 50 of the 160 employees at the shipyard are outside hires, said Ward. He said pay can vary because workers get raises based on their performance.

If 30 percent of the work force signs a union card, the union can file for an election, said Strassburg. If 60 or 70 percent sign cards, the union can petition the shipyard to voluntarily recognize the union and begin bargaining.

"We have enough cards right now to file for our election," Ward said.

If it goes to a vote, it would be the second union election in Ketchikan this year. On May 3, nurses at Ketchikan General Hospital approved a union.

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