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Assembly member calls for watered-down version of AO-37

By Emily Carlson 9:02 PM May 20, 2014

An Anchorage Assembly member who helped pass a controversial labor law is now calling for a watered-down version of the ordinance, which she calls a compromise.

Assembly member Jennifer Johnston originally voted with Mayor Dan Sullivan to push through AO-37, the labor law that significantly reduces the power unions have negotiating their contracts. The Responsible Labor Act would set a limit of a one percent raise per year for municipal employees above the cost of inflation. It would also eliminate bonuses and give the Assembly the final power in contract negotiations.

AO-37 passed the Assembly last year by a narrow 6-5 vote.

Johnston says her ordinance to repeal the original version would save the municipality more than $400,000. She says that’s how much it will cost the municipality to pay for the referendum vote in November. The unions are trying to repeal the ordinance, which they say was passed in a hurry and without proper input from the public.

Johnston’s ordinance is middle ground, she says. It would allow the unions to strike, prevent the municipality from outsourcing work and bring back binding arbitration.

“We’re having a rapidly changing workforce and technology and we have to be aggressive enough in the code to adopt to that,” Johnston said. “And I think one way to do that is going to have to be in aspects of management and how they can adapt and how employees can adapt. That’s what I’m looking for in this legislation.”

Johnston also admits there is concern that voters will repeal AO-37 in November when they head to the polls. If that happens, the Assembly cannot take up the issue for two years.

KTVA spoke with the Teamsters union Tuesday, and they say they are still reviewing the ordinance.

There will be more discussion on AO-37 at the next subcommittee meeting. That’s not for another two weeks.

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