June 29th 2016

In their fight to defend the jobs of union members on Prince William Sound, MM&P and the Inland Boatmen’s Union (IBU) have announced that they will back Steve Lindbeck, a Democrat who has mounted a vigorous challenge to Republican congressional incumbent Don Young.

As has been reported in the Wheelhouse Weekly, Alyeska Pipeline Services, which oversees tanker escort operations for the oil company majors, recently announced plans to end its decades’ long contract with Crowley, which employs MM&P and IBU members and boasts an enviable safety record.

Lindbeck has accused Young of promoting the switch to out-of-state, non-union contractor Edison Chouest in a quid pro quo linked to campaign contributions by the Louisiana contractor, whose last foray into Alaskan waters ended in the grounding of an oil rig.

Edison Chouest built and operated the AIVIQ, a 360-foot vessel constructed to tow a Royal Dutch Shell PLC drilling barge, the KULLUK, for Arctic offshore drilling in the Beaufort Sea.

In December 2012, as the Edison Chouest vessels attempted to cross the Gulf of Alaska, they lost the KULLUK. A day later, all four engines on the AIVIQ failed. Shortly thereafter, the KULLUK grounded near Kodiak Island.

The unions held a press conference in Anchorage on June 23 to announce that they are throwing their support behind Lindbeck in the congressional race.

Participating in the press conference were IBU President Alan Cote, MM&P President Don Marcus and MM&P United Inland Group Regional Representatives Shannon Adamson and Tim Saffle. They were joined by several members of the MM&P United Inland Group-Pacific Maritime Region.

“We’ve reached out to all politicians [in this effort] but we’re very pleased with Steve Lindbeck’s response and his passion to save jobs in Alaska and protect the environment,” Cote told the press.

Marcus added that a switch to Edison Chouest would cost Alaskans hundreds of jobs and put the pristine water of Prince William Sound at risk.

He called Alyeska’s proposal “reckless” and described Edison Chouest as notorious for cutting corners in the name of expediency and going to any length to quash employees’ attempts to achieve better working conditions through unionization.

Edison Chouest employees and related companies have given close to $300,000 to Young’s campaigns and legal defense funds since 2007. Union members and Lindbeck have asserted the donations bought Young’s silence on a public matter involving the critical waterway.

Besides his support of the unions, Lindbeck is also the chief author of the Alaska Oil Spill Commission report that addressed the causes and consequences of the Exxon Valdez spill.