Delta Western, Employees Clash Over Unionizing

Photo by Pipa Escalante, KUCB - Unalaska.
Photo by Pipa Escalante, KUCB – Unalaska.

A labor dispute is brewing between a regional fuel distributor and its staff in Unalaska. Employees of Delta Western say the company doesn’t want them to unionize.

Download Audio

Delta Western has about 16 employees in Unalaska to fill up commercial vessels and sell home heating fuel.

Early Sunday morning, about half of those workers walked off the job and onto a picket line with members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.

“Delta Western unfair, Delta Western unfair,” protesters chanted.

Leo Dacio is a dock driver for Delta Western. He’s been with them for about five years.

He and his co-workers want to join the union. But Dacio alleges that the company has been trying to discourage them.

“Yeah, we have a 401k [retirement savings plan] but they say that the 401k company that they have won’t be dealing with us if we’re union,” Dacio said. “So they’re threatening to stop that.”

Dacio also alleged that for months, they’ve been harassed by their supervisor. During a recent snowstorm.

“He had me shovel down at the dock where I could use an equipment,” Dacio said. “But he told me to use manual labor.”

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union sent an organizer to Unalaska last week.

Jon Brier helped put together the walkout. And he says the union also filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board on the workers’ behalf.

“It’s called an unfair labor practice,” Brier said. “It’s discrimination against these folks for exercising their rights to be union.”

In the complaint, the union alleges that Delta Western threatened at least two pro-union workers with disciplinary action and had their work assignments changed.

Brier says that all seven employees who walked out on Sunday morning were to back to work by the end of the day.

On Monday, the workers delivered a letter to Delta Western asking the company to recognize them as union members.

Brier says the company has not yet responded to that letter.

Delta Western’s site manager in Unalaska declined to comment. Representatives from Delta Western’s parent company, North Star Petroleum, weren’t available on Tuesday.

This isn’t the first time Delta Western’s employees in Unalaska have tried to unionize. In 2007, they considered joining the Teamsters and then the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.

The movement to join the ILWU went to a vote. But according to National Labor Relations Board records, the measure failed to get support from a majority of workers.