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Referendum on AO-37 adds another big issue for Anchorage voters

By Kate McPherson Photojournalist: Jared Mazurek - 11:09 PM August 12, 2014

The Anchorage Assembly had one last chance Tuesday night to avoid a referendum on the city’s labor law. But it came up one vote short, and now, the fate of AO-37 is in the hands of voters in the November election. Even supporters of the initial referendum petition say it’ll be a tough sell.

“It’s going to be a very difficult thing to attract the public’s attention on; a lot of people are not going to have time to think about this and talk about it very much between now and November,” said Andy Holleman, who has supported labor leaders in their effort to get AO-37 to a public vote.

Holleman says the best outcome would’ve been for AO-80, the modified version of AO-37, to be approved by Mayor Dan Sullivan, but that was never going to be the case. The mayor says AO-80 is a “far cry” from AO-37.

Sullivan has been fighting to secure AO-37 for more than a year and a half. Last week, the Assembly repealed AO-37 and replaced it with a more union-friendly version, AO-80. On Monday, Sullivan played his last card when he vetoed the repeal as well as the new version.

Tuesday night, the Anchorage Assembly couldn’t come up with the eight votes needed to override the mayor.

“It gives credence to the fact that they can’t use their own self initiative,” said Kevin McGee with the NAACP. “They’re reliant on whatever the mayor decides and they’ll side with the mayor regardless.”

Voters will now to decide the future of labor negotiations.

“We’ve tried all along to make a compromise, good faith bargaining, and apparently that wasn’t good enough for the mayor,” said Jason Alward with the International Union of Operating Engineers.

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