A wildcat strike shut down the state of Washington's...


SEATTLE -- A wildcat strike shut down the state of Washington's 18 big white-and-green-trimmed ferries Monday, leaving an estimated 40,000 daily commuters without service throughout Puget Sound.

Backers of the unsanctioned strike took out newspaper advertisements that said it would last 12 hours -- from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. -- and that the walkout was to protest state legislation aimed at putting them under the state civil service system.


The ad was signed by 'The Coalition of Free Union Employees of Washington State Ferry System.' All three labor unions whose members are employed on the ferry boats disavowed any knowledge of the action.

'What walkout?' said a union official at the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association office when asked about the strike.

However, members of Marine Engineers union walked off the vessels as they nosed into the docks shortly after 8 a.m.

'We're quite upset about this,' said Ferry System spokeswoman Karen Stern. 'There is no union that is telling us that they are walking out. We understand it's a coalition of free union employees. There is no one to talk to.'

About 100 union members participated in the walkout, and these included 49 members of the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association and 35 members of the Inlandboatmen's Union.


The Ferry System filed a complaint with the state Public Employment Relations Commission against the Marine Engineers union and the individual union members particpating in the walkout.

The Ferry System will try to recover some $57,000 in wages it says it will pay to workers who stayed on the job but were unable to carry out their responsiblities because of the strike, Alice Collingwood of the Ferry System said.

The walkout was intended to publicize ferry workers' displeasure with two bills in the Legislature that would put the 1,100 union members under civil service. Unhappy union employees said such action would mean reductions in health and welfare benefits and would violate their collective bargaining rights.

But one IBU worker who remained on the job said he felt the walkout might make state lawmakers more likely to pass the legislation.

The walkout left activity at a standstill at the main ferry terminal in downtown Seattle, where the ferries Yakima and Spokane were tied up to the dock and idled ticket sellers were playing backgammon.

Most commuters apparently were aware of the planned work stoppage and either took early ferries or called in sick and stayed home.

Gov. John Spellman denounced the strike and questioned the political advice behind the one-day walkout.


'It is irresponsible, it is illegal, and it is unwise -- probably foolish,' Spellman told a news conference. 'In terms of having any impact on the Legislature, I am confidant it will have an absolutely negative impact.'

Spellman said he has been in touch with the state Transportation Commission concerning the walkout and the formal state response 'will be in court and elsewhere.'

Latest Headlines