Murkowski Proud to Host Secretary of Labor on Recent Visit to Alaska

Firsthand Look at Fisheries, Workforce and Labor Development in King Salmon, Naknek, Anchorage, and Palmer

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) this week hosted U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta in Alaska, his first visit to the state as the head of the federal Department of Labor.

Murkowski and Acosta recently traveled to King Salmon and Naknek, where they attended a roundtable to discuss the unique challenges and vast opportunities of the Bristol Bay salmon fishery, including feedback from Alaskans and industry representatives on their experiences with the current H-2B Visa Program. Attendees included U.S. Senators Dan Sullivan and Jim Risch (R-ID), Congressman Don Young, Governor of Alaska Bill Walker, and various key stakeholders in the fishing and seafood industry.

Acosta 1

Roundtable Discussion in Naknek; Left to Right: Senator Jim Risch, Governor Bill Walker, Senator Lisa Murkowski, Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta, Senator Dan Sullivan, Congressman Don Young

“The best way to truly understand Alaska, to be able to fully appreciate its uniqueness, is to see it firsthand,” said Senator Murkowski. “Bristol Bay is a hub of activity in the summer, and one of the biggest engines of our state’s seafood economy—each year, this fishery produces an estimated $1.5 billion in total economic output and sales. I thank Secretary Acosta for taking the time to make the trip, for his engagement with the delegation, and for his willingness to learn from Alaskans that lead this important industry.”

“Visiting King Salmon offered me an opportunity to see with my own eyes how a small town of a few hundred people transforms into the center of a billion dollar industry,” said Secretary Acosta. “My visit made clear that many Alaskans depend on the Bristol Bay fisheries, from those who fish, process or ship, to those throughout Alaska who benefit from the transportation systems put in place to support the salmon run. I thank Senator Murkowski for hosting me.”

“We greatly appreciate Secretary Acosta’s visit and the opportunity we were provided to give him a firsthand look at the complex challenges posed to salmon processing in rural Alaska,” said Ocean Beauty Seafoods LLC President and CEO, Mark Palmer. “Seasonal workers are a crucial link in the supply chain for the 7,100+ small businesses operated by fishermen across the state of Alaska, and understanding this unique economy is essential to resolving the problems we face together. We hope it helps him in making future decisions about labor issues and continue to encourage him to support the H2B visa program, which is critical to all on-shore fish processors in Alaska.”

On Sunday, July 1st, Secretary Acosta was hosted in Fairbanks by U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) for a tour of the Fairbanks Pipeline Training Center, a roundtable discussion with labor leaders, a visit to UAF's Community and Technical College, and a viewing of the Trans Alaska Pipeline.

Murkowski and Acosta traveled to Anchorage and Palmer on Monday, July 2nd, with an itinerary of meetings and site visits focused on a variety of local workforce, labor, and education initiatives. 

Senator Murkowski and Secretary Acosta first visited with Governor Walker, Lt. Governor Mallott, Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz, and members of the Alaska Workforce Investment Board to discuss how Alaska leverages partnerships between state agencies, tribes, unions, the University, school districts, and other job trainers to train more Alaskans for Alaskan jobs and how the U.S. Department of Labor can provide additional flexibility and resources.

Acosta 2

Workforce Development Roundtable with Members of the Alaska Workforce Investment Board at Anchorage City Hall 

Senator Murkowski and Secretary Acosta then visited Cook Inlet Tribal Council (CITC) facility and the CITC Fab Lab, to learn about the integrated, wrap-around services CITC provides for adults and youth to help drive comprehensive training and connect clients to good jobs. CITC uses federal authority granted to tribes to combine funding from various federal agencies to meet clients’ job training, health, child care, housing, and other needs so they are ready and able to be self-sufficient and achieve their full potential.  

Acosta 3

Roundtable discussion and tour of Cook Inlet Tribal Council (CITC) in Anchorage; Left to Right: CITC President and CEO Gloria O’Neill, U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta, CITC Board Chair Ivan Encelewski, Cook Inlet Housing Authority President/CEO Carol Gore 

Senator Murkowski and Secretary Acosta visited the Job Corps Center in Palmer, where the Secretary spoke with students who receive training for jobs in construction, business, culinary arts, water and wastewater systems, healthcare, and more. The Secretary had an opportunity to hear and learn from Katherine Carlton, President of Chugach Services, Inc. that runs the Center under contract with DOL; Gabe Kompkoff, CEO of Chugach Alaska Corp; and,Malyn Smith, Director of the Center.

Acosta 4

Secretary Acosta addressing the Alaska Job Corps in Palmer 

The last meeting of the day was with Anchorage’s labor leaders, who shared with the Secretary their commitment to training the electricians, carpenters, laborers, operating engineers and other trades professionals for Alaska’s future. The group also engaged in a robust discussion on topics of concern for the working men and women of Alaska. 

Acosta 5

Anchorage Labor leaders and Senator Murkowski at IBEW following the roundtable with Secretary Acosta

“I invited Secretary Acosta to Alaska so he could see first-hand how Alaskans are working together to increase job and economic opportunities for Alaskans.  Having the Secretary in the state to meet with leaders in our labor and education sectors was an invaluable opportunity for everyone involved. Alaskans had the chance to explain to Secretary Acosta which USDOL programs are working well for us, and which programs need more flexibility to be a better fit,” said Senator Murkowski.  “I look forward to working alongside the Secretary and the Department of Labor as we continue to implement our apprenticeship programs, gasline plans, and all other workforce development efforts and to expand our amazing job training opportunities to more regions of our state.”

“The important discussions with members of Alaska’s labor and education community highlighted the unique challenges – and strengths – of Alaska’s workforce,” said Secretary Acosta. “From the seafood industry, to energy, to construction, to tourism, this visit provided me with deep context for how the Department of Labor can better help Alaskans develop the skills they need to excel in good, safe, family-sustaining jobs.”