My Turn: Double-talk makes the case for contracting out AMHS

Posted: Thursday, December 04, 2003

When he was assistant to the commissioner of state Department of Administration between February 1999 and July 2000, Jim Duncan actively negotiated against members of all state unions on behalf of the Knowles Administration, and gained reductions in members' earnings and benefits (particularly in health care). Later, privatization of the state's Information Technology network by a politically motivated contract with Alaska Communication System was publicly touted by Commissioner Duncan as "more bang for the buck." Now born-again union business manager Duncan says privatization of the Alaska Marine Highway is against the best interests of Alaskans because of the way similar arrangements have failed in Canada.

Makes you wonder what he would have said about the proposal if it had been made before the last election for governor, doesn't it?

The Knowles Administration shut down the Department of Administration's Central Duplication - the only union print shop in Southeast Alaska - and threw 11 ASEA members on the street with two week's notice. The state lost the arbitration on that case, which I personally filed the grievances on and presented under DOA Commissioner Bob Poe. Soon, opportunist Duncan became Poe's assistant and ultimately replaced him as commissioner.

Could it now be possible that the Alaska Marine Highway System has been so poorly managed by the state of Alaska Department of Transportation that everybody is looking for better options - including the people of Craig who have developed and started a private ferry authority? It's been said by another former senator form Southeast that AMHS is the only business enterprise in Alaska that cannot make a cocktail lounge profitable!

Alaskans in public service continue to be harmed by the self-serving and duplicitous Duncan. He was required to sign a stipulation (file no. 223-03-0342) with the Alaska Department of Law on Sept. 23, 2003, to resolve concerns of an Ethics Act Complaint for having taken a job with a union which he previously negotiated against on behalf of the state. In that stipulation, Assistant Attorney General Lisa Kirsch established that Duncan "oversaw the 12 different collective bargaining agreements, attended mediation, acted as a liaison and facilitator, and coordinated the State's bargaining efforts that resulted in the collective bargaining agreement that is now in effect for Local 52." Should state workers find comfort in knowing Duncan has been hired to undo what he has done to them in the past?

Further, the ASEA executive board was "cognizant of potential ethics problems at the time you were hired," according to the stipulation signed by Duncan. "You also agree not to work on behalf of Local 52 on any other matters which you worked on personally and substantially during your service with the Department of Administration, and further agree not to work on any other matters that require interpretation, application, or administration of the 2000-2003 CBA for a period of two years after December 1, 2002."

So, on Dec. 1, 2003, Duncan is published with a "My Turn" article in the Juneau Empire describing why privatization of AMHS - an item that was likely discussed in negotiations - is a bad idea. Then he asks some of the same questions ASEA members asked him privately - and even in "My Turn" articles - about privatization of IT: 1) how will loss of jobs affect communities served; 2) will the privatized jobs stay in Alaska - call centers handling help inquiries could be re-located in the Lower 48 or even overseas; and 3) will private-sector employees have concerns of Alaskans as their priorities or just be interested in making more money than they did when working for the state? And of course they urged the public to contact the current governor if they have concerns.

Recently the ASEA board advertised a contest to come up with a new union logo. I suggest it be a bare buttock with a sizzling "JD" branding iron burning into it.

• Donn Liston was a Juneau business agent for ASEAAFSCME Local 52 for 412 years.

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