The Anchorage Assembly voted 7 to 4 to repeal AO-37 on Tuesday night and replace it with a compromise ordinance negotiated by Assembly Members and union representatives. However, the mayor still has seven days to veto the new ordinance and the repeal.
The new ordinance passed by the Assembly was based on member Jennifer Johnston’s adaptation of the municipality’s original labor law. After discussions with union members, Dick Traini amended Johnston’s version.
The ordinance contained some elements favored by the unions, like giving them the ability to set their own schedules. Other provisions were requested by the administration, such as giving management the right to distribute overtime on a rotating basis in order to save money.
Chairman Patrick Flynn made the final comments.
“I think we’ve ended up with a unique piece of legislation in that probably everyone in the room has at least one thing they disagree with in here,” he told the Assembly and the packed auditorium. “And now is one of those very challenging votes where each of us has to decide whether it’s best to vote for what you absolutely believe in or vote for something that’s not perfect but maybe demonstrates some pragmatism and moves us forward.”
Both the repeal and the new ordinance passed but with only seven votes. Mayor Dan Sullivan said he will look over the new version with the municipality’s lawyer then make a decision whether or not to veto by the end of the week. He said he still stands by AO-37 and asserts its tenants were part of all seven union contracts that were negotiated this year.
“So I think really it boils down to there’s sometimes a bit of a power struggle between management and labor,” Sullivan said after the meeting. “They had a very comfy relationship with the previous administration and I think sometimes they don’t like that balance of power to shift. I think that’s what this is all about.”
Sullivan said his administration created AO-37 to save the taxpayers money. Municipal staff say negotiating contracts based on the tenants of the controversial law saved the city about $6 million.
Union representative Gerard Aslin said that with the mayor’s veto still a possibility, no one is celebrating yet.
“I’m cautiously optimistic that we have stepped in the right direction both for the employees — you heard a lot of testimony, a lot of statements from Assembly members about how damaging this has been for the workforce here in Anchorage — and I’m cautiously optimistic that this is a step in the right direction to start that healing process.”
If the mayor vetoes the decision there will be a special meeting to reconsider and try to override the veto on August 12. The municipality needs to tell state election officials whether or not the repeal will be on the November ballot by August 18.
The Assembly also voted to use $350,000 of the funds originally budgeted for a special election on AO-37 to hire more paramedics for the fire department instead.