Home Culture Economics Anchorage Assembly Introduces Ordinance 37

Anchorage Assembly Introduces Ordinance 37

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The Anchorage Assembly introduced Ordinance 37 at last night’s meeting.
The ordinance, backed by Mayor Dan Sullivan, Chair Ernie Hall, and Vice Chair Jennifer Johnston, is billed as “An ordinance amending Anchorage Municipal Code Chapter 3.70, Employee Relations, with comprehensive updates securing long term viability and financial stability of employee and labor relations.”
It’s an elusively chipper, albeit bureaucratic, sounding title given to a very long, very complicated, and exceedingly controversial piece of legislation.
The 30 page document detailing the Mayor’s plan was announced last Friday, presented to labor groups on Monday, officially introduced Tuesday, and could be voted on as early as the upcoming Assembly meeting on February 26.
The objections to it are equally worth their weight in paper.
Among them, Ordinance 37 would strip unions of longevity and performance-based pay. It also rewrites the pay structure to tether labor contracts – salaries, benefits, and pensions – to the Consumer Price Index (CPI). This link can result in a problematic effect on workers’ pay, as CPI forecasts historically overestimate the inflation rates used to justify capping pay.
If this cap is so severe that it results in a dispute between the affected union and the municipality, under current law, the employee relations board assigns the two parties a mediator tasked with resolving the conflict within a span of two months. Failure to reach an agreement within those parameters results in the case going into arbitration.
The Sullivan administration believes those days should be over.
Under the new bill, disagreements between the administration and labor require unions to pay half of the costs of mediation. The added financial burden is combined with a new provision that avoids arbitration by awarding the final say in contract disputes to the Assembly, who would be vested with a new power to “impose the last best offer of one of the parties.” (p.18, line 19)
Upon any contract deliberations, if the administration decides not to budge, it simply has to dig in its heels and continue not to budge until it’s gone through the mediation process (which labor now has to pay for) and has arrived back in the chambers of the Loussac. Once back before the body, the administration’s original offer can be chosen. As long as the administration holds the majority of votes on the body, negotiations can take place, at expense to the union, without any negotiating on the part of the municipality.
And, just in case the labor unions getting hosed in the process object to the process, the bill includes a ban on strikes, work stoppages, and slowdowns without exception.
On the Anchorage Education Association’s facebook page, a message urging membership to attend Tuesday’s meeting read clear: “All unions in Anchorage are asking members to turn out IN FORCE for Tuesday’s Assembly meeting at 5. You may not be able to get in, but come prepared to be outdoors for a bit and make how you feel known.”
An email sent out from incoming chair Michael Wenstrup of the Alaska Democratic Party was even louder: “Not since Alaska emerged from the shadow of Russian control have such heavy handed anti-democratic tactics been used to crush citizens’ participation in their local government.”
And on Tuesday night, union members from all ends of organized labor, as well as non-union supporters, showed up in solidarity.
Kyle Hopkins of the Anchorage Daily News tweeted: “I’ve never seen the Assembly this crowded.”
Jeanne Devon of the Mudflats posted on facebook: “Chambers at capacity! Fire Marshall’s official count is 250 in the lobby plus more than 500 outside in 28 degree weather!”
The Loussac Library was awash in chants of “No on 37!
Inside the chambers, however, the will of the body – despite an attempt to postpone the bill indefinitely followed by a handful of attempts to postpone it until after the April municipal election – was “Proceed with 37.”
A 7-4 split, which may ultimately represent the vote that leads to the downfall of collective bargaining in Anchorage, secured that the bill would move on to the next step. It will be revisited at the February 26 meeting, where public testimony will be taken. If tonight was any indication, that could be a fairly long and drawn out process.
Rather than answer any questions, the proceedings at the Assembly meeting, in lieu of providing an answer as to how this proposal could go, instead raised questions. Did the mayor’s proposal – which is consistent with the message he has conveyed throughout his time in office – wake up an organized labor force who’s voice has diminished in recent years?
Or does this put us further down the path of that organized labor force going away? Recall that he was reelected by a large margin on that same anti-union message just a year ago.
The answers to those questions have very real results in where this state is headed. And they may be answered in a scant two weeks.

1 COMMENT

  1. While it was extremely gratifying to see the public response and large turnout, I wish that a similar groundswell had happened to protest the hijacking of the rewrite of the municipal Title 21 Land Use and Zoning Regulations. The acts being committed are just as egregious and the issue is just as important. I guess Title 21 is just such an intricate, multi-faceted instrument that it is difficult to explain/parse. But I wish someone would try. It is easy to obfuscate or draw the wrong conclusions. Basically, fair resolution of wages and benefits makes it possible to live in Anchorage. Fair resolution of Title 21 would make it so you would want to.

  2. The handwriting has been on the wall of the intent of the pit bull mayor. As Anchorage goes the rest of the state goes. This is more than about Anchorage workers this is now a state issue. Not a finer example of the fact that elections have consequences. All of our elections.