On July 24, the Inlandboatmen’s Union of the Pacific (IBU) initiated a strike. Since then, Alaska Marine Highway System ferries have not been sailing.

“At this time, we are focused on the safety of passengers, crew and vessels,” a notice from the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities said. “We are reaching out to ticketed passengers to work with them to reschedule, or offer refunds for tickets. We are working to return ships to safe harbor with adequate shore side support.”

The notice went on to say that the department appreciated the public’s patience “as we work through the logistics of getting passengers rerouted. There is a heavy volume of calls right now, we are doing our best to reach everyone as quickly as possible.

Updated service notices are being posted and AMHS customers can call 907-465-3941 or toll free at 800-642-0066.

Meanwhile, the Maritime Labor Alliance has written a letter, dated July 29, to Alaska Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy asking that he treat members of the IBU more fairly than they are being treated currently.

IBU workers “have been consistently obstructed in their efforts to negotiate a fair collective bargaining agreement,” the letter said. “They have been cast as villains when, in fact, they have been bargaining for three years and have made every reasonable effort to meet the state halfway. Now they are being intimidated and threatened with sanctions for exerting their legal right to strike.”

The letter goes on to say that AMHS provides a vital service to the people living in the coastal communities of Alaska. “The economic and social connectivity of coastal Alaska depend on the skills of a highly trained marine workforce. As key personnel in maintaining the critical and first-class maritime infrastructure of Alaska, IBU members have earned the right to a fair contract,” according to the correspondence.

The Alliance maintains that the economic well-being of coastal Alaska is being jeopardized by a crisis that has been manufactured for political purposes and that the citizens and the state of Alaska deserve better. “We urge you to direct your administration to negotiate in good faith with IBU workers,” the letter says. “We the undersigned pledge to work in concert to support the efforts of the IBU. A fair and reasonable contract for ferry workers will keep Alaska moving.”

The Maritime Labor Alliance consists of six maritime labor unions: American Radio Association (ARA), Inland Boatmen’s Union of the Pacific (IBU), International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA), International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association and International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots (MM&P). The group represents 120,000 maritime workers employed in every sector of the industry.