Anchorage Assembly considers labor law options

Anchorage Assembly members met Tuesday to continue the conversation about the municipality’s controversial labor law, AO-37. The labor subcommittee and community members debated Assembly Member Jennifer Johnston’s proposed revisions of the municipality’s old labor laws.

In her version, unlike in AO-37, unions would still have the right to binding arbitration and the right to strike.

However, her amended version of the labor law does give the administration more control over things like scheduling employees and equipment. But Johnston said the regulations could be negotiated.

“And maybe the unions might know best,” she said, explaining that her version allows flexibility. “And if they know best they can plead their case and make their case. And if it’s a good case it should be probably accepted. And if at some point there was a mayor who didn’t accept their good case, that mayor and that administration has the full liability if something went wrong. Which, I’m sorry, but the union doesn’t have that liability. It doesn’t have that accountability.”

Johnston said she wants to discuss the nuts and bolts of the labor laws with the community before bringing it to the Assembly.

The president of the Anchorage Central Labor Council, Daniel Repasky said he appreciates Johnston’s attempt to fix the problems caused by AO-37.

“There are some flaws in it, but I suspect that because of the make up of the assembly right now that if her ordinance goes forward, her changes, that they would be addressed by amendments from the assembly. So I could deal with that. But again I would prefer that AO-37 just disappear.”

And it still could. Assembly member Dick Traini is proposing a motion to repeal AO-37 completely at the next Assembly meeting. Public comments will be taken on June 24.

The city is also working with the state’s Division of Elections to determine how much it would cost to add the repeal vote to the November statewide ballot. If it does not go on the statewide ballot, the vote would be delayed until next April’s municipal elections. They’ll make the decision by July 7.