Assembly to decide on AO-37 on Tuesday, still discussing possible alternative

Assembly members and union representatives met on Monday to discuss the latest revisions of a proposed new version of Anchorage’s controversial labor law, AO-37. The Assembly has to make a decision by next week, or it will be up for a public vote in November.

Earlier this summer Assembly Member Jennifer Johnston set forth a new version of Anchorage’s labor laws. The ad hoc labor committee is working with union members to refine the details before the next Assembly meeting. Jason Alward, with Operating Engineers Local 302, says he’s optimistic about the conversations, but this ordinance isn’t ready yet.

“The biggest concern for all of labor is one thing, and it’s kind of the elephant in the room that no one’s discussed until today, and that’s current bargaining unit members no longer being part of the unit.”

Alward says the new definitions of “confidential” and “supervisory” employees could push some people out of their unions.

Other union representatives are concerned that Johnston’s version does not allow “past practices” to be considered during arbitration. Assembly member Bill Evans says removing it could be problematic. Johnston says leaving it in stifles innovation.

Assembly member Dick Traini says the conversations about this version of the labor law have been productive. “Had we had this process you saw today with Labor there, saying ‘We have problems with this line, this line.’ And management saying ‘Well we can work on this if you do this,’ then this whole thing wouldn’t have happened the way it did.”

But Traini says now they just need to start over. He plans to put forth a motion to repeal AO-37 in its entirety.

If neither Johnston’s version nor the repeal pass the Assembly with eight votes on Tuesday — enough to override a veto from the mayor — then the issue will go to the ballot box in November. But Traini says that has ramifications.

“If it goes to the voters in November and they repeal 37, everything that’s written in there, the current code, is locked in for two years. Can’t be adjusted.”

The municipality must decide by August 18 if the repeal will be on the November ballot, which would cost the city $30,000.

The Assembly will have a work session on Friday at noon to continue the conversation. Then they’ll take public testimony and vote on the issue on Tuesday, August 5.