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Assembly Votes to Repeal Labor Ordinance: Mayor Vetoes

Published On: Oct 22 2013 09:22:00 PM AKDT   Updated On: Oct 23 2013 06:40:00 AM AKDT
Anchorage, Alaska -

Members of the Anchorage Assembly continued a months-long struggle with the mayor over a controversial labor ordinance at their Tuesday meeting.

Late Tuesday, Mayor Dan Sullivan vetoed a 7-4 decision by the Assembly to overturn Ordinance 37.

The measure narrowly passed last March, and drew the ire of labor unions, some of whom called it an attack on organized labor.

The mayor defended the ordinance, saying it the city has been financially stricken by costly and lengthy contracts with several unions. He wanted to reform the negotiation process before some of those contracts expire.

"If you look point by point through the ordinance, I have yet to have anyone tell me that doesn't make common sense: limiting the terms of contracts, making sure the economic impact doesn't exceed what is going on in your local economy," Sullivan told Channel 2 News Tuesday night.

But organized labor disagreed, mounting a petition drive to force a repeal vote.  Opponents gathered more than 22,000 signatures, surpassing the 7,124 needed to force a referendum.

Earlier this month the Assembly met to discuss several potential dates to hold the vote. Members voted 6-5 early Tuesday evening to hold on April 1, 2014. The mayor promptly vetoed the measure, but legal counsel was split over whether Sullivan had the authority to veto a decision on a referendum.

"My decision is not to acknowledge the mayor's veto, until we have a court decision," said Assembly Chair Ernie Hall. "I request that both counsels present the matter to the Superior Court for decision on an expedited basis."

Assembly member Dick Traini's motion to overturn the entire ordinance was heard later in the meeting after public comment. He says many city workers are fed up with AO-37.

"They are demoralized, if you have a chance to talk to them, talk to them, they feel completely betrayed," Traini said.

Eagle River Assembly Member Amy Demboski was one of four people to vote against overturning the measure. She says skyrocketing labor costs in places like Detroit and Providence, R.I. have crippled those cities' finances.

"So I ask, is it better to tighten out belt now and protect our taxpayers, our employees and our municipal retirees or potentially go down the path of fiscal instability and reckless spending?" Demboski said.

It would have taken eight votes to overturn Sullivan's veto.

Editor's note: Assembly member Amy Demboski's first name was mistakenly stated as "Michelle" in an initial version of this story.