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Assembly Repeals Labor Law, Mayor Uses Veto

By | October 22, 2013

Municipal Attorney Dennis Wheeler and Anchorage Assembly Attorney Julie Tucker discuss the Mayor's veto power with Assembly Chair Ernie Hall as Assembly member Dick Traini rushes back to his seat in Assembly Chambers at Loussac Library Tuesday.

Municipal Attorney Dennis Wheeler and Anchorage Assembly Attorney Julie Tucker discuss the Mayor’s veto power with Assembly Chair Ernie Hall as Assembly member Dick Traini rushes back to his seat in Assembly Chambers at Loussac Library Tuesday.

Assembly chambers were packed and after hearing around around a dozen citizen’s testify, mostly against the controversial labor law, the body voted 7 to 4 to repeal AO37. But Mayor Dan Sullivan vetoed their decision. Two Assembly members, Adam Trombley and Bill Starr switched sides on the issue. He said they’re migrated to the other side caught him off guard.

“I didn’t see them identify anything in AO37 that they had problems with or that didn’t make common sense. So yeah I was surprised.”

Sullivan maintains his labor law makes sense — that people paid by tax dollars should not have the right to strike, that union contracts should not span more than three years and that raises should be linked to the consumer price index plus one percent. He also noted that the law would standardize health plans and holidays making government more efficient. And stands by the the elimination of pay enhancements for college degrees … and a ban on binding arbitration. Sullivan said he was making up for a previous administration’s leniency with unions.

“It basically protects the tax payer from having what happened in 2008 when Mayor Begich and a complicit Assembly essentially in the midst of the worst recession in 70 years made one of the worst decisions in Anchorage history, dramatically increasing prices when you’re in a recession and all your revenues are falling. Terrible business decision. So this prevents that from happening in the future.”

It wasn’t the Mayor’s first veto of the evening. Earlier in the meeting the Assembly passed a measure setting April 2014 as the date for a referendum on the labor law by a 6 to 5 vote, but the Mayor quickly passed a veto note the the Assembly chair. However attorneys disagreed whether the veto was legal and the measure is set to be decided in court.
Assemblyman Dick Traini, who authored the ordinance to repeal AO37 said the thought all vetoes, after clear votes by the Assembly and months of public testimony against the labor law were quote, “Ridiculous”.
Derek Hsieh with the police union said during his testimony just before the Assembly’s vote to repeal AO37 and the Mayor’s subsequent veto, that the fight against the labor law, which has spanned the better part of a year, has actually made Anchorage unions stronger.

“You don’t need laws. You don’t need restrictions on peoples’ voice, their vote, their activity. The scariest thing for a union boss is good management. It causes the employees to start to question why they’re even why they’re paying dues. And as you can tell by the crowd out here tonight, our members know precisely why they’re paying dues now.”

If Assembly members don’t set a date to vote on the labor law, the city charter requires a special election in December. The Supreme Court of Alaska is set to expedite a decision on whether a referendum to repeal the law can go forward.

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