Pro-Union Delta Western Workers Press On

Last week, a handful of Delta Western fuel supply employees in Unalaska kicked off an effort to unionize by going on strike. They’re pressing ahead — even after a visit from the company president.

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

After a visit from the company’s president, a handful of Delta Western fuel supply employees are pressing ahead with an effort to unionize.

It’s the same group that staged a walkout on February 16 to protest alleged mistreatment by managers. They want to join the Inlandboatmen’s Union — the marine division of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.

Kirk Payne is the president of Delta Western. He flew in from Anchorage this week to visit the Unalaska office. In an interview with KUCB, Payne said he had spoken with employees about alleged mistreatment.

“Well, we certainly asked them if there was harassment,” Payne says. “You know, if they had concerns. If there are, certainly we’ll address those.”

Payne says Delta Western tries to provide a safe workplace.

“First of all, we do not tolerate harassment, discrimination of any kind,” Payne said. “We have an 800 number that they call either anonymously or un-anonymously. And they’re always welcome to call me.”

But as of Wednesday, Payne said he hadn’t heard any complaints ”of significance” while he was in Unalaska: “Nothing that would warrant what the activities were on Sunday.”

During the walkout on Sunday, the pro-union workers alleged that Delta Western managers had used 401(k) retirement plans as a bargaining chip in violation of federal labor laws.

Payne, the company’s president, provided KUCB with access to a letter that was circulated among Delta Western staff in Unalaska. The letter is signed by Payne and Brian Bogen, the president of Delta Western parent company North Star Petroleum.

The executives urge workers not to unionize, and emphasize the benefits they currently have. They also outline the way benefits could change if workers joined a union. One scenario: The company that administers Delta Western’s 401(k) retirement plan may not work with unionized employees.

That constitutes a threat, says Jon Brier. He’s an organizer with the ILWU and IBU, and he’s been working with Delta Western’s pro-union contingent. They submitted a letter to Delta Western requesting recognition of their union membership shortly after the walkout. But Brier says the company hasn’t responded to the letter.

For now, Brier says the workers have no plans to file a petition for union representation with the National Labor Relations Board. If they did, that could lead to a formal unionization vote among eligible Delta Western employees in Unalaska.

An information officer for the NLRB in Seattle confirms that they’ve received a formal unfair labor practices complaint from the Inlandboatmen’s Union. In the complaint, the union alleges that Delta Western violated federal labor law over the last six months. The workers say the company harassed known union supporters by changing their work assignments.

Payne says Delta Western will cooperate fully with the NLRB as they investigate the workers’ claims.

None of Delta Western’s fuel supply shops in the state of Alaska are represented by unions.