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Anchorage Assembly passes rewrite of labor laws

Posted: March 28, 2013 - 12:15am

ANCHORAGE — The Anchorage Assembly has approved a rewrite of city labor laws by a close margin.

The 6-5 vote Tuesday night puts in place a law that tips the balance of power in negotiations with city unions more toward management, the Anchorage Daily News reported Wednesday.

The new law, which was sponsored by Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan, does away with the power of local government unions to strike or have binding arbitration.

Among other changes, the law also prohibits performance bonuses or incentives in future contracts. It limits raises to a maximum of 1 percent over the five-year average of Anchorage’s inflation rate and sets up “managed competition” in which city employees would compete with private companies for some jobs.

“This is an ordinance that allows us to make sure the pendulum does not sway one way or the other,” Sullivan said after the vote.

Opponents on the Assembly spoke passionately against the new law, some criticizing the Assembly’s decision to shut down public testimony March 11 while there were still people standing in line hoping to speak. Most people testifying that day were against the rewrite.

“The decision to close public testimony prematurely has irrevocably harmed our public process,” said Assembly member Patrick Flynn, who cast a no vote.

Sullivan and Assembly leaders pushed to get the ordinance quickly because a new round of bargaining for city unions begins in April.

Before the vote, the Assembly rejected a move by Assembly member Paul Honeman to delay a decision on the labor law for six months, until October. But Honeman succeeded, however, in passing an amendment stating that no city employee would suffer a loss of base pay as a result of labor law changes.

The administration kept its proposal secret until just days before it was formally introduced in February. Most Assembly members didn’t know it was coming and neither did union leaders.

Police union president Derek Hsieh said confusion surrounds the measure that passed. He said there were four different versions produced by the administration, and the final draft was only available Tuesday night.

“I’m not even sure what they passed,” Hsieh said.

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Information from: Anchorage (Alaska) Daily News, http://www.adn.com

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