Union representing Skagway railroad workers authorizes strike

FastCast digital headlines for Monday, July 10, 2023.
Published: Jul. 10, 2023 at 5:56 PM AKDT
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SKAGWAY, Alaska (KTUU) - A union representing the operators, engineers and brakemen of an Alaskan railroad that serves 500,000 passengers annually voted to authorize a strike.

SMART Transportation Division Local 1626 authorized a strike toward the beginning of the month, citing years of unaddressed complaints from White Pass & Yukon Route railmen, according to Jason Guiler, the general chairman of the SMART TD union. Guiler said the wages for the railmen haven’t increased in six years, even as the company has invested heavily into its infrastructure.

“Six years is a long time to have not received any kind of a raise or an increase at all,” Guiler said.

Additionally, Guiler said the railroad wants to “essentially eliminate” the brakeman position.

“The company wants to move forward and has vocalized that they believe that they can put technological advances in place that would allow that position to be eliminated,” Guiler said. “And so that’s where we obviously fully disagree.”

The union won’t be able to officially go on strike until a 30-day cooling-off period is completed. The union and company were assigned a national mediator but discussions ended in a stalemate. Guiler said he hopes the two sides can come to an agreement.

“After that cooling-off window is over with, then we can continue on with a strike if that’s what happens,” Guiler said. “But the cooling-off period really is essentially an opportunity for the company and the union to still come together and try to work on things, and that’s what I would like to see happen.”

The railroad is celebrating its 125th anniversary dating to the time when construction began on the railroad. The daring construction of the project — which climbs to just under 3,000 feet — was completed in 1900.

The railroad is partially owned by the Carnival Corporation.

Attempts to reach White Pass Railroad officials were unsuccessful.