Workers at oil service company turn down union

Posted: Tuesday, June 05, 2001

KENAI (AP) -- Workers at Peak Oilfield Service Co. overwhelmingly rejected a move for union representation, according to a vote tally by the National Labor Relations Board.

The board said 421 employees, 70 percent of the total, voted against joining a union when the ballots were counted Thursday.

''We treat our employees fairly, and they realize they can come to us with their concerns,'' said Bruce Passe, Peak's Cook Inlet area manager.

The vote showed 125 employees, 21 percent of the total, wanted to be represented by the Operating Engineers Local 302 and the Laborers International Union. There were 52 workers, or 9 percent, favoring Teamsters Union Local 959 to represent them.

''I think that people are just happy with the company they work for and don't see a need to go union at this time,'' said Debbie Goodwin, who helped organize the Neither/No Committee to fight the unions.

Goodwin, an administrative assistant, would not have been part of a bargaining unit.

Jeff Ackerman, an organizer for the Operating Engineers, said the Neither/No Committee ran a strong campaign. But he said the union organizing effort would go on.

''Each 366 days, you can have an election,'' he said. ''A lot of times, you win the second election.''

During the campaign, Ackerman said, the unionization effort was spurred by employees who are dissatisfied with health and retirement benefits.

Passe said Peak pays as well or better than other contractors, but the industry is highly competitive.

''If we were to raise our wages even 5 percent, we'd be out of the ball park in the competitive bidding process,'' he said.

The Western Alaska Building and Construction Trades Council petitioned the labor relations board last month for an election to unionize Austin Industrial crafts workers building BP's experimental gas-to-liquids plant in Nikiski.

Passe said Austin Industrial, which arrived last winter and hired local workers, is different from Peak, which has had years to build good employee relations. But the Peak vote sends a message, he said.

''It definitely is a statement by the workers in general to the unions, especially with the margin by which they were defeated,'' he said.

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