ANCHORAGE - Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan rejected the city’s unions’ proposal to institute a one-year wage freeze in exchange for tabling his proposed ordinance, commonly referred to as AO-37.
Sullivan said his proposal to overhaul to the city’s labor laws needs to go to the assembly so that the rules can be set in place before negotiations begin on labor contracts, which are set to expire starting June 30.
In his letter to union leaders, the mayor also tried to clear “numerous misconceptions” – which union representatives said should be clarified in the language of the ordinance.
“He admits there's disagreement or confusion with language and intent,” said Sgt. Gerard Asselin, police union treasurer. “Our take would be: Write that into the law so it's very clear. It's difficult to have trust when the whole process has evolved the way that it has, when someone says, ‘Trust us, here's what we mean to do.’ We just prefer it be written into the law.”
Sullivan met Thursday afternoon with Karen Foster, who pushed for DNA collection upon arrest after her 18-year-old daughter, Bonnie Craig, was kidnapped, raped and murdered about 20 years ago. Foster’s other daughter is a 911 dispatcher who would be directly affected by AO-37.
“I thanked the mayor, saying, ‘you know what, my kids are totally independent and responsible,’” Foster said, recounting her encounter with Sullivan on Wednesday night at Jens’ Restaurant. “’I brought them up that way. They bought their first home when they were 22 years old, and thanks to this proposal my daughter might be losing her home and she'd have to come down to Florida and live with me.’ [He responded]: ’It’s absolutely not true. It's just the union spreading lies’; that she would not be losing anything.”
Sullivan said he “was able to dispel some of the urban myths that were promulgated out there.”
“I was able to reassure her by going through the ordinance some of the fears her daughter may have had are unfounded,” Sullivan said of his meeting with Foster. “For example, they get extra pay enhancement if they have a degree. That doesn’t change. Going forward, though, any new person getting a degree, that degree has to relate to their field of work.”
“For example, right now, you have a fireman with an art history degree that we paid for,” Sullivan said. “He gets an eight percent raise to have an art history degree to be a fireman. Does that make sense? No. So those are some of the things we're going to change going forward.”
Sullivan said, “Ten to one,” Anchorage residents support his proposal. He showed CBS 11 News a printout of the call logs and emails from two days, with comments supporting the mayor’s efforts highlighted in yellow: “Please hold your ground”; “You have my support in reeling in the unions”; “Please stay strong. I am part of the silent majority”; AO37 is an “opportunity to break the stranglehold the public unions have on the rest of us.”
Sullivan pointed out that two of the comments were from union members.
(To protect the identities of those who called and wrote, Sullivan refused to allow CBS 11 News cameras to get footage of the printout or for CBS 11 News to get a copy of the log.)
“At the public hearing what you're seeing is a very organized effort by the union leadership to get folks to the hearing, and it's a little intimidating for the average person to go into a scene like that with constant clapping or booing,” Sullivan said. “It's nice to see that people are using other forms of communication to express their support.”
Asselin disagreed. He said it’s clear from the outpouring of testimony against AO-37 that most Anchorage residents oppose the mayor’s efforts.
“When you have an issue, you get both sides of it,” Asselin said. “We didn't see that in the public testimony. He may want to say that's what it is: that people may be intimidated by the unions.”
Sullivan said his proposal is “not just about money.”