SKAGWAY, Alaska (July 31, 2023) — Members of the SMART Transportation Division (SMART-TD) have voted in favor of ratifying a tentative agreement the union recently reached with the White Pass & Yukon Route (WP&YR).

The more than two-dozen unionized workers for WP&YR, the largest employer in Skagway and a tourist railroad serving thousands of visitors who come to the southeast Alaska town of 1,200, had been working since late 2017 without a new contract.

“This has been a hard-fought and long — nearly six-year — journey for our membership and our negotiating team,” said lead negotiator Jason Guiler, SMART-TD general chairperson. “Our members have spoken and are in favor of this agreement. After working through a pandemic and then dealing with the surge in both inflation and ridership as tourists have come back, they feel that the carrier has extended an acceptable offer.

“This is a prime example of how collective bargaining works. We look forward to serving riders aboard the WP&YR now that negotiations have been resolved!”

The new contract, effective Jan. 1, 2018, with a wage package that began upon ratification on July 26, 2023, includes a wage increase through the length of the nine-year agreement. It also prevented the carrier from eliminating the brakeman position.

“General Chairperson Guiler and the membership of our Local 1626 in Alaska who work for WP&YR should be very proud of what they’ve accomplished with this success,” said Vice President Brent Leonard, who assisted in the negotiating process throughout. “It proves what can be done when workers stand together for themselves. I congratulate them on an outstanding job!”

SKAGWAY, Alaska (July 25, 2023) — White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad (WP&YR) and the SMART Transportation Division (SMART-TD) are pleased to announce that a tentative agreement has been reached between the railroad and the union for WP&YR’s train and engine workers.

The agreement, which will run through 2027, is under consideration by the more than two-dozen unionized operating employees and is pending ratification. Details of the agreement will be released publicly following the announcement of the ratification vote results.

“Growing up in train and engine service, I have a deep respect for the craft and have worked hard over my tenure to help further that tradition on the railroad. With this agreement, we can now move forward together continuing the WP&YR’s 125-year legacy,” WP&YR Superintendent of Rail Operations Mark Taylor said.

“The members I represent will carefully consider the provisions of this agreement,” said General Chairperson Jason Guiler (GCA-WPY), who led the labor union’s local negotiating team and represents the unionized operating employees working for the WP&YR. “This long process has allowed us to express our concerns and urge the carrier to offer a contract that is fair and addresses workers’ needs.”

“I’m very proud of the hard work that General Chairman Guiler and the Local 1626 negotiating team did on this round of negotiations,” said SMART-TD Vice President Brent Leonard, who assisted in facilitating the negotiations. ”This tentative agreement recognizes the dedicated hard work that SMART-TD members provide to the WP&YR and provides exceptional raises in pay, maintains a high level of health & welfare benefits and does so without a single concession in work rules. SMART-TD White Pass members, once again have something to be proud about in their jobs.”

“It has certainly been a challenging process, but we are happy that both parties have been able to come together and get this done in the best interest of our employees. It is a good agreement for both sides and we believe shows the respect, value, and appreciation we hold for the work our people do,” said WP&YR Executive Director Tyler Rose.

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The White Pass & Yukon Route (WP&YR) is a World Class railroad annually carrying hundreds of thousands of passengers through Alaska, British Columbia, and the Yukon Territory. WP&YR is a Class 2 railroad federally regulated in the United States and Canada and is celebrating its 125th anniversary.

SMART Transportation Division is comprised of approximately 125,000 active and retired members who work in a variety of different crafts in the transportation industry. These crafts include employees on every Class I railroad, Amtrak, many shortline railroads, bus and mass transit employees and airport personnel.

The potential for a work stoppage on the White Pass & Yukon (WP&Y) Route, a tourist railroad that operates between Alaska and Canada, has drawn the attention of media in Alaska as the results of a strike authorization vote are awaited.

SMART Transportation Division members in Local 1626 who work for the carrier and General Chairperson Jason Guiler have been negotiating a new contract with WP&Y since November 2017.

Union members want wages that keep pace with the inflation-fueled increases in the cost of living as well as retroactive pay for the nearly six-year period that the contract has been stagnant.

Meanwhile, the carrier is seeking to hike healthcare costs for its workers and to eliminate the brakeman position, thus reducing its workforce by one third and giving the conductor double the duties.

“Safety is the highest concern for SMART-TD, and we refuse to endorse or agree to the carrier’s proposal that puts passengers, employees and the public at risk,” Guiler said.

The ongoing strike vote has drawn the attention of regional media outlets in the area. Both KHNS and KTOO have reported on the potential of a work stoppage. Results are of the authorization vote are expected on Friday.

KHNS: Skagway’s railroad workers could go on strike

KTOO: Amid busy tourist season, workers on Skagway’s White Pass railway are voting on a possible strike

WP&Y is the largest private employer in Skagway, with a population of close to 1,200 people in southeast Alaska. The carrier is owned by an investment group that includes the Carnival Corp. cruise line.

SMART Transportation Division-represented members from Local 1626 (Anchorage, Alaska) on the White Pass and Yukon Route will begin electronic voting tonight on whether to authorize a strike against the carrier.

Negotiations with the tourist railroad have been open since the expiration of the last labor contract in late 2017.

In an interview with the Whitehorse Daily Star, SMART-TD General Chairperson Jason Guiler (GCA-WPY) said that the carrier is seeking to increase the burden of health care costs onto workers as well as reducing the number of operating crew members.

He told the newspaper that ticket prices have increased by $27 per ticket since 2017 to an average of $152 per ticket and the carrier is expected to transport some 600,000 passengers this year.

As set forth by the Railway Labor Act, if a strike is authorized by members after the three-day voting period, a National Mediation Board mediator will then determine whether to release workers from mediation. If mediation is concluded and a strike authorized, a proffer of arbitration would then happen.

If arbitration is rejected by either the union or carrier, it would begin a 30-day cooling-off period before a strike could occur.

White Pass and Yukon operates as a Class III narrow line from Skagway, Alaska, to Carcross in the Yukon Territory and is the largest employer in Skagway.