Delta Western's Pro-Union Fuelers Strike Again

Wednesday, March 05 2014

Pipa Escalante/KUCB

For the past month, a group of fuel supply workers in Unalaska have been trying to unionize. And they’ve also accused their employer, Delta Western, of mistreating them for it.

As KUCB’s Lauren Rosenthal reports, the workers took to the picket line on Tuesday to protest with other local union members.

Leo Dacio is a driver for Delta Western, and a spokesman for the pro-union workers.

He alleges that the company cut off their access to some facilities after they walked off the job the first time, in February.

Dacio: "They changed the locks on the break room and on the shop, and at the shop -- that’s where we wash our clothes, our work clothes. And that’s the only shower."

The only emergency shower, to wash off chemicals in a hurry. The washing machines are there so employees don’t have to worry about getting toxic or flammable substances in their machines at home.

Dacio alleges that the only people who lost access to those facilities were the workers who wanted to join the Inlandboatmen’s Union. He says they didn’t get new keys again until Friday -- and they only got them then because they asked their manager.

Kirk Payne is the president of Delta Western.

Payne: "They did have some issues with the lock and they changed it. Bu this facility is open [from] 7 in the morning to 7 p.m. every day, to where you don’t need a key. And when somebody needed access or needed a key, they were given it."

In the last month, Payne and the president of Delta Western’s parent company have both visited the island to talk with their employees. Brian Bogen is the head of North Star Petroleum, and he was in town just hours before Tuesday’s strike.

At this point, Delta Western workers says they are still waiting for the company to formally respond to a written request they made in February -- to be recognized as union members.

Payne, the president of Delta Western, says that’s not going to happen.

Payne: "What the union needs to do is to file a petition with the NLRB that says, ‘Hey, these guys want to be represented.'"

The National Labor Relations Board would run the rest of the unionization process, possibly leading up to a formal vote.

Adam Dalton is an organizer from the Inlandboatmen’s Union. He’s been in Unalaska for the past two weeks, and he says the workers are getting ready to file a petition with the NLRB sometime soon.

In the meantime, Dalton says he’s convinced that changing the locks at Delta Western did keep union supporters from accessing facilities. And Dalton says that that violates the National Labor Relations Act.

Dalton: "Basically any change to the workers’ conditions -- to the conditions of their employment -- that they had access to before, would be an unfair labor practice."

Dalton says the union is adding this alleged violation to a complaint they filed with the NLRB last month. At that time, the Inlandboatmen’s Union accused Delta Western of trying to intimidate and punish its pro-union workers.

That kind of behavior is what the workers said they were responding to when they walked off the job on Tuesday.

About a half a dozen Delta Western employees joined the picket line, despite the fact that the company’s fuel barge had just arrived to deliver a shipment.

Delta Western rounded up a crew to unload the fuel. But they also called the police.

Unalaska police sergeant Bill Simms says the picketers were technically trespassing as they stood at the mouth of Delta Western’s fuel dock.

The protesters moved, the police didn’t get any more complaints, and the strike went on as planned.

Crowd: "Delta Western, you don’t care. Unsafe, unfair. Delta Western, you don’t care."

Delta Western has roughly 18 workers at its fuel shop in Unalaska. Right now, about seven of them want to join the union.

to kick and scream all you like on Thursday, March 13 2014:

You are correct the processors are non-union, and they hire foreigners to do the manual work. And as long as people from third world countries are looking for ways into this country they will keep working at the processing plants. I now for these people get free and reduced medical and come her and get thousands of dollars work done on their teeth and medical issues all at the expense of citizens of this country who work hard. This country was built strong at one time by many unionized employees. Unless you know the whole story of what is going on at DWI, please do not make any judgement calls.

Mike on Wednesday, March 12 2014:

City workers pensions never are more than their wages, and they also pay into the pension plan.

Anonymous on Sunday, March 09 2014:

Once again, get it straight: Union in Dutch does not handle box throwers, although they did make it better for the non-union box throwers. Please stop making this about the money, when this is about fair treatment and safety.

Hawaii Union on Saturday, March 08 2014:

look at Hawaii how are they staying afloat if you "NEED NON UNION" every worker there is union they are all part of the ILWU and they seem to do just fine because you dont realize how much these big company owners actually make if you put it together the cost of a company having a union labor force is actually only about 5% their total costs and they still make millions or billions of dollars so this island would be just fine if it was all union

To all you union haters on Saturday, March 08 2014:

you guys clearly don't even understand what a union is why don't you go and research this with your "i'm better than ouz I have a real job" mentality and then come do our work and tell us it is not skilled work sure we have some unskilled jobs like boxthrowing but the majority of our work is skilled can you be a referigation mechanic? a diesel mechanic? can you operate a tug boat from west coast up to alaska could you even operate a topic? I bet you would have to be trained first that is unless its unskilled and uneducated work? then maybe you could do it while being unskilled know what your talking about before you bash on unions

kick and scream all you like on Thursday, March 06 2014:

Well Casey, no labor bashing, just telling it like it is.... only 12% labor in the USA is union these days. This article is about fuel truck drivers, and I could add the box throwers who unload as unskilled. Yes many unions electricians and mariners are skilled , yet our country seems to have built more than 1/2 of its commercial buildings and private homes without unions - and our fishing fleets have been delivering to Unisea, Westward, Trident ect...for 20+ years without being union.... Those processing plants could not operate here if they were union and that means - the ILWU,Inlandboat, the City of Unalaska (where they actually have to retire workers before their pensions will be paying them more than their working wages) and others unions. You can kick and scream all you like - but without the non-union fishing industry here you would all be out of work also.

Casey Calhoun on Thursday, March 06 2014:

Kudos Innocent Bystander, your comments truly do show a lack of education and what a union is and who it is for. Unskilled workers? I suppose you think after four years of apprenticeship a journeyman electrician is unskilled? Or that after ten years at sea a master mariner is unskilled? Save your uninformed, tea party, hate labor bashing speech for somewhere you can hide without using your real name (oh wait)

Anonymous on Thursday, March 06 2014:

Get a real job? How about educate yourself to the fact that the people making billions of dollars are who make things unaffordable, not the people who want better work conditions and protection against retaliating bosses. This isn't even about the money, so your whining about unions is invalid. It's about their asshole bosses and unsafe work conditions.

Kudos Innocent bystander! on Thursday, March 06 2014:

Unions are nothing more than places for totally unskilled workers to make big money and have houses in the valley. There is a time and place for everything, and now its time for unions to dissolve so Americans can afford things again, and the uneducated union workers get a real job like the rest of us. And quit threatening to go on strike every time you don't like something. Grow up

Innocent bystander on Wednesday, March 05 2014:

Don't fool yourselves into thinking the sky will always be sunny & cloud free just because you're in a union. Personally, I've never heard such a bunch of whiners as those union types! Seems like they're never happy unless they have an issue.

Well that makes sense. on Wednesday, March 05 2014:

If the locks get changed at work, the first person I would go to is my manager... kind of pointless to change the locks if you just put out a big bucket of keys for everyone to help themselves to.

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