Wrangell, workers reach new contract agreement

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers representative Julius Matthew walked the picket line with Wrangell municipal workers Lorne Cook, Dwight Yancey and Andrew Scambler before the strike ended. (Photo courtesy IBEW)

Wrangell has a new agreement with its unionized workers.

If approved by the Borough Assembly, it will end three years of sometimes acrimonious talks over wages and benefits.

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International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers members went on strike June 22. That came after the Assembly approved the borough’s final contract offer, which workers had already rejected.

The strike ended about a week later after the two sides returned to the bargaining table.

But the municipality rejected a new union contract proposal. Rather than return to the picket lines, workers asked for more negotiations.

Interim Borough Manager Carol Rushmore said the talks led to new terms.

“There’s basically one change from the contract that the Assembly ratified on June 20. And it has to do with the health and wellness benefits – the medical benefit – for union members,” Rushmore said.

Assembly members will hold a special meeting at 5:30 p.m. July 13 to consider amending the contract they already passed. Rushmore will recommend approval.

The union voted in favor of the agreement at a July 10 meeting. A representative said it would make no statement at this time.

24 Wrangell utility and other employees are represented by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Another 35 management and non-union staffers also work for the borough.

The Assembly will discuss the contract change behind closed doors, then vote in a public meeting.

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Ed Schoenfeld is Regional News Director for CoastAlaska, a consortium of public radio stations in Ketchikan, Juneau, Sitka, Petersburg and Wrangell. He primarily covers Southeast Alaska regional topics, including the state ferry system, transboundary mining, the Tongass National Forest and Native corporations and issues. He has also worked as a manager, editor and reporter for the Juneau Empire newspaper and Juneau public radio station KTOO. He’s also reported for commercial station KINY in Juneau and public stations KPFA in Berkley, WYSO in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and WUHY in Philadelphia. He’s lived in Alaska since 1979 and is a contributor to Alaska Public Radio Network newscasts, the Northwest (Public Radio) News Network and National Native News. He is a board member of the Alaska Press Club. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, he lives in Douglas.