FAIRBANKS - An arbitrator is expected to rule soon on a dispute between two labor unions attempting to organize University of Alaska workers.
The Alaska State Employees Association and the Alaska Public Employees Association have been engaged in a turf battle for the past six months, each trying to collect enough signatures to appear on an upcoming unionization ballot.
Representatives from both unions traveled to Washington, D.C., last week to argue they should be allowed to continue with organizing efforts. The AFL-CIO, a national federation of labor organizations, agreed to hear the dispute. An arbitrator is expected to decide whether one or both unions can proceed.
ASEA officials contend they've already collected signatures from the required 30 percent of eligible employees, though the verification of those signatures by the Alaska Labor Relations Agency has been put on hold during mediation.
The university and APEA have criticized ASEA's offer to enter card signers in a raffle with a prize of 25,000 Alaska Airlines miles.
ASEA business manager Jim Duncan said the union has agreed to donate the mileage to charity instead of including it in a raffle. The university, however, still considers the signatures collected during the promotion as "tainted cards" and has asked the state labor agency not to count them.
"The university welcomes fair and honest communication with employees regarding the costs and benefits of union representation and a fair and honest election process, if sufficient employee interest is demonstrated," chief human resources officer Beth Behner wrote to the state agency. "Employees should be allowed to make this important decision without an improper inducement by ASEA."
The unions continue to collect employee signatures while the dispute is heard. Duncan said the most likely outcome is that both unions will be allowed to appear on the ballot.