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  • Unions Raise Alarm That Valdez Cost Cutting Threatens Alaskan Jobs, Economy, Environment
    Posted On: Jun 19, 2016

    By JoAnne Powers, June 20, 2016

    Two maritime unions representing captains and crews who guide oil tankers in Alaska’s Prince William Sound are raising the alarm that plans to cut the cost of escort vessels and environmental response teams could have devastating effects on both the Alaska economy and the environment.  Crowley Maritime Services has been  escorting the tankers for nearly twenty years, but plans are afoot to replace them with Louisiana-based Edison Chouest in July of 2018.  Don Marcus, president of the Masters, Mates & Pilots union says Edison Chouest has a lamentable safety record, putting at risk the environment and local economy, as well as their members’ jobs: 

    [Don Marcus]: “To bring a group from the outside with virtually no experience in some of the most dangerous sea-conditions in North America is courting disaster.  When you consider what’s at risk environmentally, with the fishing industry, with the local economy, it just boggles the mind a decision of this magnitude would be made in such a reckless manner completely disregarding the safety record that Crowley and our members have performed up in Prince William Sound.  We believe that if the public is aware of what’s being put at risk they would demand further scrutiny.”

    The unions have launched the Sound Jobs For Alaska campaign to challenge the new contract, including television ads and an online petition.  Alan Cote', National President of the Inlandboatmen's Union, says any serious incident with a laden tanker in Valdez is going to have horrendous consequences:

    [Alan Cote']: “I was on the cleanup in 1989, I saw the devastation of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, and no one wants to revisit that.  Our masters and our crews are experts in being able to stop a laden tanker that is no longer under its own power and prevent it from hitting the rocks.  The maneuvers and skills it takes to do that are intense.  We can’t understand why you would turn over the contract to a new company that has a dubious safety record at best.”

    The unions are also raising concern about Edison Chouest’s labor record, describing the company as rabidly anti-union.  Cote' says the good union jobs in the Valdez operation are sustaining many Alaskan families, including a significant number of Alaska natives, whose livelihood is threatened by Crowley losing the contract:

    [Alan Cote']: “They’re all very nervous about this transition of whether or not they’re going to be able to maintain their jobs or maintain their current standard of living.”

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