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Mayor vetoes repeal of Anchorage labor law

Posted: October 24, 2013 - 12:13am

ANCHORAGE — The Anchorage Assembly voted Tuesday night to repeal a labor law that drew the condemnation of city unions and an effort to overturn it by referendum.

The repeal didn’t last long, however.

Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan immediately vetoed the repeal and the fate of the measure likely will be decided by voters, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

The measure limits pay raises and employees’ right to strike.

The assembly, the mayor and municipal employees have been wrangling over the labor law has since February. The assembly in March ended a public hearing in which people were waiting to testify and approved the measure 6-5.

Assembly members Adam Trombley and Bill Starr announced two weeks ago that they had reversed their support for the measure. Trombley said it has torn apart the city and become partisan.

The vote to repeal was 7-4 — one vote short of what it would take to override Sullivan’s veto.

Sullivan said that the labor law had gone through seven work sessions and 20 hours of public testimony. The measure “point by point by point, puts common sense back into our contract negotiations,” he said.

“This was one of the most open, comprehensive public processes,” he said, a comment that drew derisive laughter from the pro-union audience.

Assembly Chairman Ernie Hall voted to reject the repeal. A “silent majority” backs the measure, he said, despite the large turnout at the meeting by unions and residents in support of the repeal.

Retired residents living on fixed incomes have urged him to avoid property tax increases, he said.

“I want you to be well-compensated. I truly do,” Hall said to the city workers at the meeting. “But by the same token, there’s a huge portion of the community that are struggling, and having extremely difficult times, and are on the cusp of being homeless.”

The assembly also voted to schedule a citizen’s vote on the repeal for the next municipal election in April. Sullivan also immediately vetoed that measure.

The mayor and other supporters of the labor law want a vote delayed until later in 2014 or in 2015.

Assemblyman Dick Traini spoke with an assembly attorney and questioned whether the scheduling veto was legal. He contends the assembly has the power to set referendum dates and the mayor cannot intervene.

Municipal Attorney Dennis Wheeler said Sullivan acted within his rights.

Hall, the assembly chairman, said he would not acknowledge Sullivan’s veto until after a court review.

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