IBEW Tries to Organize Alaska Shop

After an on-and-off relationship with cable workers at
General Communications Inc., a major cable and telephone company in Alaska, union
officials are once again trying to establish shops at the company.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers'
Local 1547 confirmed that there will be a union vote for cable workers Feb. 3, even though
a recent attempt to unionize long-distance operators and technicians recently failed.

A total of 33 workers participated in that election. The
union needed 18 votes to support its bargaining unit, but it only got 11.

David Morris, a spokesman for the telecommunications
company, said he couldn't offer much comment on the union activities, citing
regulations by the National Labor Relations Board.

The operator has cable systems in 16 communities, including
Anchorage, Eagle River, Bethel, Cordova, Fairbanks, Homer and Juneau. Several systems were
purchased from MSOs that cashed out of Alaska in 1996, and two of them had union shops at
that time, according to Morris. Those systems voted to abandon unionization, he added.

GCI has about 750 cable workers. The IBEW bargaining unit
would be 30 employees, he said.

Representatives of the IBEW confirmed the election date,
but they did not return further calls to discuss possible worker grievances.

GCI has grown rapidly since the mid-1990s. It launched
facilities-based local telephone service in Anchorage in 1997. The next year, it began
construction of the Alaska United Fiber Optic Cable System, which links the state's
population centers to the lower 48 states via Seattle.

The cable operation has deployed cable modems in Anchorage,
Juneau and Fairbanks, and it offers digital-cable service in Anchorage.

Its product lines now include local and long-distance
telephony, Internet access and cellular service, in addition to cable. GCI's services
are available to 76 percent of the state's homes, according to the company.

That kind of growth breeds stress, union officials told the
local press.

GCI has been without union shops since it was founded in
1979, Morris said.