Anchorage Assembly says it's heard enough feedback on labor

ANCHORAGE — The Anchorage Assembly held four public hearings and listened to 20 hours of testimony on the mayor’s proposed rewrite of city labor laws to curb the power of unions representing municipal employees and save money.

The head of the Assembly says that’s enough discussion time, but opponents want more time to speak out against the proposal.

“I think it’s a reasonable time,” Anchorage Assembly Chairman Ernie Hall told KTUU-TV. “Twenty hours on a single topic is a reasonable amount of time. I’ve got legal direction that says we’re good. We’ve given opportunity for individuals to speak.”

Gerard Asselin, treasurer of the Anchorage Police Department Employees Association, said more time is needed for public discussion. The last hearing was held Monday on the proposal, which is expected to come up for a quick vote.

Twenty hours is not enough, he said.

“It’s not, and the reason is this, what you’re talking about is about 2,200 employees that will be affected by this and operations that run this city of about 3,000 people with almost half-a-billion dollar budget,” Asselin said.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska sent the Anchorage Assembly a letter Friday saying it is limiting the right of citizens to speak out on the issue.

“They need to be allowed to testify as long as there are individuals that want to testify,” ACLU Executive Director Jeffrey Mittman said. “What the Anchorage Charter says is you have the right to testify. They can’t just arbitrarily cut off debate.”

Mayor Dan Sullivan said Monday that the assembly is within its rights.

“When it comes to public hearing, what they have to do is make sure that the amount of time is reasonable. After tonight, there will have been 20 hours of public testimony,” he said.

Sullivan proposes to limit the power of the city’s eight unionized labor groups.

He said the plan would streamline bargaining, match up union benefit programs, and control labor and administrative costs.

The plan would take power from city unions to strike or arbitrate disputes. It also would eliminate performance bonuses or raises based on longevity. And it would limit raises to the five-year average of the consumer price index.

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Information from: KTUU-TV, http://www.ktuu.com

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