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State worker union accepts new contract

Members vote in favor of proposal despite opposition from Juneau chapter leadership

Posted: Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Members of the Alaska State Employees Association voted to ratify a new contract with the state, despite strong opposition from chapter leadership in Juneau and elsewhere, the union announced Tuesday.

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The union's negotiating team, including business manager Jim Duncan, reached an agreement with the state that called for a 4 percent pay raise for the fiscal year which began July 1, and 3 percent raises for each of the next two years.

The union's Juneau chapter balked at that deal, however, and urged members to reject the proposed contract, calling the deal not good enough.

The slogan for the anti-ratification campaign was "4-3-3 is working for free."

Votes

Yes: 1,965, 59 percent

No: 1,380, 41 percent

Turnout: 3,345, 49 percent

In an election that concluded Tuesday, 49 percent of eligible union members cast ballots. Of those, 59 percent supported the contract while 41 percent were opposed, Duncan said.

It is now up to the Alaska Legislature, meeting in January, to allocate money for the pay increases. Duncan said he expects that money will be approved, and union members will get lump sum payments early in 2008 to make up the difference for the contract that has been in effect since July 1.

With the ratification vote complete, the agreement requires the state's negotiating team in the Department of Administration to submit a request to the Legislature to pay for the higher wages, and such contract improvements as shift differentials for workers at Pioneer homes.

"I'm quite confident those will be approved by the Legislature," said Duncan, a former state representative from Juneau.

Annette Kreitzer, commissioner of the Department of Administration, did not return phone calls Tuesday.

Duncan said the contract was the best in years, and he was expecting approval. It falls in line with other unions'," he said.

Duncan said the 49 percent turnout was one of the highest turnouts the union has had.

"We're very satisfied to know our members participated at that level," he said.

The union had conducted an advisory vote on the contract in June, but it had been only narrowly approved then. That vote required sending the contract to the membership for a full ratification vote.

Duncan said he was happy to have the three-year contract done, even if it was months after the previous contract ended.

"It's always great to have it out of the way," he said.

The ASEA is Local 52 of the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees union.

With nearly 9,000 members, it is the largest of eight unions representing state workers. Two other unions, the Inlandboatmen's Union and the Supervisory Unit have yet to agree to contracts.

• Contact Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.



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