Anchorage again rejects labor law rewrite petition

ANCHORAGE — For the second time, the city of Anchorage has rejected an attempt to repeal a rewrite of the city’s labor laws that was passed by the Assembly in March.

The petition was rejected again because the city lawyer said the rewrite involves administrative matters that can’t be legally changed by ballot referendum, according to Tuesday’s Anchorage Daily News.

The first step for opponents in repealing the law is to get the language in a ballot referendum cleared by the city clerk and the city attorney. City attorney Dennis Wheeler wrote a memorandum Monday to the city clerk saying the latest effort failed.

Susan Orlansky, an attorney for referendum sponsors, disagreed. The ordinance is not an administrative measure but legislative and can be repealed by referendum, she said. The rewrite was “broad and sweeping” and establishes six new policies regarding labor and management relations, Orlansky said.

Wheeler argued the ordinance did not make sweeping changes. “These amendments generally clarify ongoing standing policy or equity objectives, or have very limited substance,” he said.

The rewrite was sponsored by Mayor Dan Sullivan and two Assembly members, including Assembly Chairman Ernie Hall. Supporters said it would make the bargaining process with union’s representing city employees more efficient and save Anchorage money.

The rewrite stripped city unions of much of their powers, such as the right to strike. It limits raises in any one year to the cost of living plus 1 percent. The Anchorage Assembly passed the rewrite in March on a 6-5 vote.

Andy Holloman, president of the Anchorage teachers union, said the matter is now headed to court to make sure the public has the right to vote on the matter.

The city is beginning a new round of negotiations with its eight unions this month. About 3,200 people work for the city and nearly three-fourths are represented by unions.

Holloman said sponsors of the referendum will ask the court for an expedited hearing.

“We feel strongly this is a legitimate question to come before the voters,” he said.

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