Anchorage Unions Aim to Overturn New Anti-Union Bill

Labor activists in Anchorage, Alaska are gearing up to overturn a new labor ordinance that prevents public-sector unions from striking and using binding arbitration. Sponsors filed an application to launch a petition drive for a referendum to strike down the new law sponsored by Republican mayor Dan Sullivan.

The measure passed the Anchorage Assembly by a 6-5 vote last month and went into effect immediately, affecting about 2,000 municipal workers represented by nine unions.

In addition to barring strikes and binding arbitration, the bill also limits contract raises to one percent a year over the Anchorage consumer price index and requires health insurance coverage be pooled amongst city unions.

Union advocates argue the changes made by the ordinance were rushed and passed in secrecy in an attempt to cripple labor unions and their collective bargaining power.  

“Upcoming bargaining will be very different. All of the checks and balances have been pretty much gutted,” said union attorney Charles Dunnagan. “[Municipal unions] essentially have no public bargaining power whatsoever.”

If the application for a petition is approved, labor activists must gather about 7,200 signatures to get the measure on the ballot in a special election. Signatures must be gathered within 60 days in order to suspend the ordinance.

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