Rail unions are struggling to keep their ranks intact as union members struggle to find work.
Key points:Alaska rail workers in the Northwest have been the focus of a fierce strike that is expected to continue until the end of the monthRail workers in Alaska have been on strike since May after the state voted to ban strikes, while a number of rail unions are refusing to negotiate.
They say the unionization drive has cost them their jobs and threatened the economy and state.
Alaska’s railroad operators have said they are committed to keeping the strike going and have said the strikes will be resolved in the coming weeks.
The Alaska Railroad Workers Union (ARWU) says it’s down to a dozen members to cover about 30 per cent of the union’s workforce.
It has said the strike has cost its members hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost wages and pensions.
The strike began in May and has been going on since then.
The union said in a statement on Wednesday that it has lost around 50 jobs and that there are currently six active members and another four on administrative leave.
Its president, Tim Schaller, told ABC News the strikes have left the company “a shadow of its former self”.
He said that while the strike had a negative effect on the overall economy, the loss of a few hundred thousand dollars in wages and benefits is “quite significant”.
“We’re not the only industry in this situation and I’m not the first person to have been there and seen what it looks like in the workplace,” he said.
He said the union was not taking part in the strike because it does not represent the majority of the workers.
“There’s a lot of people who are looking for a job,” he told ABC Radio.
“We’ve lost our union membership in the past and we’re not going to go into the strike hoping that this is the last thing we’ll see.”‘
We are going to be OK’The union’s president, Schallers former wife, Joanne, said the bargaining process is a struggle and said the negotiations have been tough.
“It’s a difficult process.
I mean, we’re going to continue to be ok,” she said.”
We’ve got to take this work seriously.
We’re not just going to sit back and take this.
We’ve got people who will do anything to get a job and we need to take the work seriously.”
She said the company is committed to bringing the workers back to work.
“That’s what they’ve been trying to do.
And that’s what we’re trying to keep them from doing,” she told ABC radio.
She said it was important to the company that the union negotiate, not strike.
“The goal is to have a fair union and we will do whatever it takes to achieve that,” she added.
“I’m not worried about the consequences, I’m worried about getting our message across.”
Union president Tim Schockler said it’s a shame that the strike is going on in the first place.
“As a former member of the Alaska Railroad Union, I understand the importance of keeping the people involved in the bargaining room,” he wrote in an email to the ABC.
“When there is a strike, that’s when you have to look for a new employer to replace the employees who were laid off.”
He added that there were “a lot of good people at the table”.
The union has also said the wage freeze is an unfair one and the strike could damage the union.
“This wage freeze does not provide for meaningful bargaining,” Schallert said.
But Mr Schallinger said he has no doubt that the company will come to a deal.
“They will come around to the bargaining table and negotiate a fair contract for all workers, including the workers in our union,” he added.
Mr Schallister said the unions leadership has been very supportive.
“Our union leadership is supportive of our efforts,” he explained.
“What we’re doing here is to keep the workers engaged and to have them stay involved in bargaining and working to get this right.”
He said if there was an agreement, it would be good news for the state and economy.
“At the end, I believe that the Alaska rail company and our employees are going into the bargain in good faith and willing to work to make a better deal for all of our citizens,” he concluded.