When Will Voters Weigh in on Anchorage Labor Law?

Since the introduction of the ordinance, signs expressing support for unions have popped up in Anchorage
Since the introduction of the ordinance, signs expressing support for unions have popped up in Anchorage

Anchorage Assembly members introduced two ordinances at their regular meeting Tuesday night that would suspend voting on a controversial labor initiative.

Assembly members Bill Starr, Jennifer Johnston and Amy Demboski introduced an ordinance that would suspend the the a vote on the labor initiative until after the April 1 regular municipal election, but no later than the 2015 one. Demboski says she support the proposal because she wants everyone to hear what the Supreme Court has to say on the matter first.

“Essentially, I think it’s prudent to wait until the Supreme Court decision comes down before we move forward and if you look at their docket, it’s typical that it takes seven, eight months, sometimes up to two years before you have a resolution,” Demboski said. “I don’t think they’ll wait two years on this one; I think we’ll have a decision next summer sometime, and the ordinance that I put forward says, you know, once that decision comes forward then we can move forward whether it’s concurrent with the state election or whether we put it April 2015, but it gives the Supreme Court a chance to weigh in.”

Last week, the Municipality of Anchorage appealed to the Supreme court of Alaska, a superior court judge’s decision allowing the initiative to go ahead.

The initiative allows voters to decide whether the labor ordinance, also known as AO-37, should be reversed. The Assembly passed it last March despite protests and with people still waiting to testify on it. The ordinance takes away municipal workers right to strike and restricts collective bargaining rights. It would affect more than 2,000 city employees.

Assembly members Dick Traini, Paul Honeman and Elvi Gray-Jackson proposed another ordinance that suspends the labor law only until this Spring.

“What our ordinance does is provide for AO-37 to be on the April 1, 2014 ballot, which makes sense. We have the option of having a special election, but it’s gonna cost the tax payers way too much money to do a special election, to the tune of $280,000 plus and that would just be wrong. The laborers got 22,000 signatures from folks in our community who want an opportunity to vote on this. We need to do this as soon as possible without costing the tax payers a lot of money.”

The unions had 26 days to collect the 7,124 signatures required to get the initiative on the ballot. They say they gathered more than 22,000 signatures. The Clerk’s office has until Thursday to certify them. A public hearing on the proposed ordinances will be held Oct. 8.

Daysha Eaton is a contributor with the Alaska Public Radio Network.

Daysha Eaton holds a B.A. from Evergreen State College, and a M.A. from the University of Southern California. Daysha got her start in radio at Seattle public radio stations, KPLU and KUOW. Before coming to KBBI, she was the News Director at KYUK in Bethel. She has also worked as the Southcentral Reporter for KSKA in Anchorage.

Daysha's work has appeared on NPR's "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered", PRI's "The World" and "National Native News". She's happy to take assignments, and to get news tips, which are best sent via email.

Daysha became a journalist because she believes in the power of storytelling. Stories connect us and they help us make sense of our world. They shed light on injustice and they comfort us in troubled times. She got into public broadcasting because it seems to fulfill the intention of the 4th Estate and to most effectively apply the freedom of the press granted to us through the Constitution. She feels that public radio has a special way of moving people emotionally through sound, taking them to remote places, introducing them to people they would not otherwise meet and compelling them to think about issues they might ordinarily overlook.

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