Peak Workers To Decide Union Question


VOTE: Organization effort is led by employees dissatisfied with health and retirement benefits.



The Associated Press

April 27, 2001




Kenai -- Ballots were mailed today for a vote on whether workers at Peak Oilfield Service Co. on the North Slope and the Kenai Peninsula should unionize.


Peak workers will vote whether to organize under the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 302 or the Teamsters Union Local 959, or whether to unionize at all, said John Coble, an organizer with the Laborers International Union of North America.


An ad hoc group called the Peak Neither/No Committee has been running newspaper advertisements encouraging Peak workers to vote against joining a union.


The ads urge Peak employees to ask the Teamsters Union for copies of its constitution before voting. They also quote a National Labor Relations Board decision suggesting that unionization and collective bargaining could lead to a cut in employee benefits.


The union vote was triggered after the Operating Engineers and Laborers collected bargaining authorization cards from more than the minimum 30 percent of Peak employees.


Peak is co-owned by Cook Inlet Region Inc., the Native corporation for Cook Inlet, and by Nabors Drilling. The bulk of its employees work in Prudhoe Bay, though some work at Agrium in Nikiski, at Swanson River, Beluga, Granite Point, Cook Inlet platforms and in Valdez.


Blake Johnson, business manager for the Laborers union and president of the Kenai Peninsula Central Labor Council, said the biggest issue is that pension plans generally pay for the rest of a worker's life, while a 401(k) plan may run out of money.


Jeff Ackerman, another Operating Engineers union organizer, said the unionization effort was spurred by employees who are dissatisfied with health and retirement benefits.


"Peak is very generous compared to other oil field service companies – they pay 40 cents on the dollar into their employees' 401(k) account," he said. "But what happened at Peak is when they shifted over to a 401(k), is it's not as good as a bona fide retirement plan."

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