Target: Anchorage Assembly
Goal: Restore collective bargaining rights in Anchorage, Alaska
On March 26, 2013, an anti-labor ordinance passed by a 6-5 vote at the Anchorage Assembly. It removes unions’ right to strike, gives the Assembly the power to settle labor disputes instead of an arbitrator, standardizes health benefits for union members, limits annual pay increases and overtime pay, outlaws performance bonuses and even outsources some work done by city employees. This ordinance strips power from eight city unions. This legislation is misguided and should be reversed.
The ordinance AO 2013-37 was passed in an undemocratic fashion, with the Anchorage Assembly voting to stop public hearings on the issue, with hundreds more people waiting for their turn to speak out. Most of the people who had a chance to voice their opinion were against the measure, saying that it would undermine unions in the city. Many union leaders during the testimony said that the ordinance takes away the right to collectively bargain and limits rights of city workers. The consequences of this law are already visible. KTVA 11 reports that Anchorage’s fire and police departments for the first time are struggling to find qualified people to work for them. Both departments are blaming this law. People are aware that the power of the unions has dwindled and they are less willing to join police or fire department.
Mayor Dan Sullivan, a supporter of the legislation, said that the old labor law was out of date and that he wanted to make union negotiations more efficient. “Efficient” is a code word for streamlining the process past the unions and giving the power to the city assembly, getting rid of the arbitrator, a neutral party. In addition, the law sets up “managed competition”, which means that city employees will compete with private companies for some jobs.
This is an undemocratic and anti-labor bill that was passed in secrecy and for political reasons. The administration kept the proposal in the closet until February 8, just before its formal introduction in the Assembly. February 8, coincidentally, was also the deadline for Assembly candidates to file to run in the city election that was held on April 2. Most of the members of the chamber were not aware of the legislation. Union leaders were not informed about it either.
It is no wonder that a bad piece of legislation was rushed through the approval process without transparency and public comment. Six members of the Assembly said that they supported the bill even before hearing grievances from the labor force in Anchorage. AO 2013-37 should be repealed, and rights given back to union workers. Sign below if you agree that Anchorage Assembly should correct its mistake in approving this anti-union measure.
Dear Mr. Hall,
Ordinance AO 2013-37, passed by the Anchorage Assembly, is damaging city unions. It is a core right for unions to strike and voice their grievances. Union workers serve the community of Anchorage by protecting residents, putting out fires, and caring for the vulnerable. They deserve respect from authorities and people at large. That is why this legislation should be repealed.
There are many problems with the new law, such as limiting pay increases and overtime pay, changing the role that the arbitrator plays in labor disputes, eliminating performance-based bonuses or incentives in future contracts. These changes are already hurting the police and fire departments. KTVA 11 reported that for the first time in history these departments have a hard time finding qualified individuals to fill vacancies. Ordinance 37 is to blame, both departments claimed.
Another concern is how the bill passed the Assembly. Public testimony was halted, even though hundreds of people were waiting to speak their minds about the bill. It is not surprising that the majority of the speakers were against this measure. Then the Assembly moved to adopt the law over many objections from some members of the chamber and the public.
This piece of legislation is misguided and undemocratic. It punishes city employees for doing their best for Anchorage. Please consider repealing this damaging law and restore collective bargaining rights.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Mel Green via Flickr