Ferry Strike Cancels One M/V Tustumena Run Between Homer And Unalaska

Aug 6, 2019

Members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) rally July 29 in Unalaska to express solidarity with striking ferry workers. Local union members also sent a letter of support to the governor's office.
Credit International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU)

State ferries resumed sailing Sunday after an 11-day strike that affected thousands of travelers and freight shipments across Alaska.

That includes all passengers booked on last week's M/V Tustumena run between Homer and Unalaska, which was canceled due to the strike.

"Unfortunately, we did have two teachers and their families planning to take the ferry," said Superintendent John Conwell of the Unalaska City School District.

Conwell said one of those new teachers is from Alaska and made new plans pretty easily. The other, moving from Oregon, had a harder time.

"They have been able to find a friend of a friend of a friend of their mother's in Homer, who going to store their car until the ferry runs again," he said. "But that's an added cost to a teacher from out of state who's just out of college. He and his wife hadn't planned on having to buy some plane tickets."

The cancelation also had financial implications for some of Unalaska's businesses and nonprofits, such as the Museum of the Aleutians.

"Ferry passengers are really unique, interesting people," said Director Ginny Hatfield. "A lot of them are Alaskans. They're very interested in Alaska culture. And they easily double our income on [ferry] days."

Beyond the dip in museum ticket sales, Hatfield said local artists were affected. Ferry passengers often purchase their work on consignment at the gift shop.

"They are making the purchases of things like baskets and bentwood hats and paintings and drawings and other artwork that is coming from our local artists," she said. "So that's going to be a big hit, both from admissions and from sales."

Still, the strike canceled only one sailing down the Aleutian chain — a summer route that runs about twice monthly from May through September. Some southeast Alaska communities experienced wider impacts and delays, including Metlakatla, which has ferry service five days each week.

A contract ratified Friday has ended the dispute between the state and the Alaska Marine Highway System's largest union.

Members of the Inlandboatmen's Union of the Pacific won a three-percent raise over three years. They also received concessions on when and how much they contribute towards their health care plans.

The Tustumena's next Aleutian run is scheduled to arrive in Unalaska on Aug.17.