Legislature(1995 - 1996)
03/21/1995 01:05 PM CRA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HCRA - 03/21/95 HB 248 - LOCAL EXEMPTIONS FROM PERA CO-CHAIR IVAN invited Representative Al Vezey to give the sponsor statement for HB 248. Number 654 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY said this bill's purpose is when the Public Employment Relations Act (PERA) was established, a means was provided by which municipalities could, by democratic ways, select to opt out of being in PERA. Approximately 15 communities did not opt out, and 2 other communities that tried to opt out were informed by the courts that they no longer had the option of opting out according to the requirements of PERA. This bill clarifies that there is a democratic process by which communities can either opt in or out of PERA. The reason behind the bill is just one of fundamental fairness because the state of Alaska is currently imposing a mandate on how municipal management and labor relations, between municipal employees, will be managed for a small number of communities in the state. The other communities are totally free to structure their own system of managing their labor and management relations. Number 679 CO-CHAIR AUSTERMAN asked about the communities that did not opt out of PERA. Number 681 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY directed the members to look at the list in their bill packet and listed the names of the communities still covered under PERA: Bristol Bay, Fairbanks North Star Borough, Haines, Ketchikan Gateway Borough, Kodiak Island Borough, the City of Bethel, the City of Cordova, the City of Dillingham, the City of Fairbanks, the City of Hoonah, Nome, Petersburg, the City of Seldovia, Unalaska, the City of Whittier and the Thomas Bay Power Authority. He listed four examples of those that are no longer under PERA: Juneau, Anchorage, and the Mat-Su and North Pole boroughs. Most of the population of the state have opted out of PERA, but the communities that didn't no longer have that option according to the courts. Number 694 CO-CHAIR IVAN asked for any other questions or comments from the committee. He invited Willie Anderson to testify on HB 248. TAPE 95-9, SIDE B Number 000 WILLIE ANDERSON, Field Staff, National Education Association (NEA), stated he wanted to suggest an addition to the sponsor statement. In 1992, the Alaska State Legislature passed SB 16 which decrees mandatory participation for every school in the state to be in PERA. Every community in the state is covered by PERA as it relates to school districts employees. Every REAA would have to have an election to opt into PERA and this would have major disruptions to the districts around the state. It is a policy statement for the state of Alaska to cover labor relations, especially as it relates to school district employees where the state funds 70 percent of most district funding and up to 100 percent of some districts' funding. It is an issue for the state to make that policy call. NEA opposes this bill for several reasons. First of all, it causes major disruption to what has worked in this state in an experimental basis until 1992, and on a permanent basis from 1992. NEA asks the committee not to pass this bill and to consider the disruption that would happen in the state as it relates to having every community vote on whether they are going to be covered by PERA. Mr. Anderson believed there would be a fiscal impact to the state and REAAs with those elections. He stated that this bill was like an unending circle because you could opt in then out and then back in to PERA. Number 066 CO-CHAIR IVAN asked if the committee members had any questions for Mr. Willie Anderson. Number 068 CO-CHAIR AUSTERMAN wanted to clarify comments made by Mr. Anderson concerning his phrase, `major disruption.' Co-Chair Austerman stated that most communities have elections every year, on an on- going basis, during which the PERA elections could be included in the already existing structure. Number 074 MR. ANDERSON explained the disruption he referred to is that you a volatile issue would come up in the community that would divide the community between the those that support the right of PERA against those who oppose PERA. Number 092 CO-CHAIR IVAN asked for comments from the committee. He then invited Mr. Don Valesko to testify. Number 100 DON VALESKO, Business Manager, Public Employees Local 71, said Local 71 employs about 2,300 people that work in the public sector throughout the state of Alaska. Some members work only for the state of Alaska but some of them do work for the Anchorage School District, the municipality of Anchorage, the Borough of Haines, the City of Dillingham and the Mat-Su Borough School District. He opposed HB 248 because it's regressive and not a progressive piece of legislation. In the early 1970s, the Alaska State Legislature enacted PERA. He said he was an employee of the state of Alaska at that time and believed that he'd moved up in stature from a second class citizen to a first class citizen of the state. He stated that this bill would politicize a system of communication that has been working well for the past few years. They would put the option to opt out of collective bargaining systems before the voters but then where would the contracts that the employees have end up? They have to go through the political arena because they can no longer talk to their employers. Going back prior to collective bargaining with the state of Alaska, you had a system of employees collectively begging the legislature to have the government decide each of their issues. Then you might get a cycle of people that are pro-collective bargaining and they put out a vote for the citizens and encourage the voters to go back to the system of collective bargaining. A system has been worked out that allows for communication between the employer, the Administration and the employees which has worked quite well. Mr. Valesko urged the committee not to pass the bill. Number 180 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON asked Mr. Valesko for an analysis on what happened to a collective bargaining process whereby two parties try to come to a reasonable agreement. He was curious as to what happened to that process when, in effect, the ultimate hammer may be the local legislative body pushing for an agreement and getting none, putting it up for vote by the public. Number 190 MR. VALESKO responded that it takes away the employees' ability to communicate effectively with their employers on their concerns. He stated that employees that find it difficult to speak out now might find their right to speak out lost in the future. A system becomes poorer and less effective and repressing. Number 206 CO-CHAIR IVAN invited Mr. Bruce Ludwig to testify. Number 211 BRUCE LUDWIG, Business Manager, Alaska Public Employees Association (APEA), Alaska Federation of Teachers (AFT), opposed HB 248. He stated that he thought it was bad public policy. Upon entering a position where you are going to have elections deciding the rights of employees to bargain collectively, you are going to enter a situation where contracts are signed for one term and no contracts for another. The local subdivision would not be able to budget properly and there are going to be changes for the supervisors to maintain. APEA/AFT is against HB 248. Number 228 CO-CHAIR IVAN invited Claudia Douglas from NEA to come forward. Number 233 CLAUDIA DOUGLAS, President, NEA, said NEA opposes HB 248. Since the early 1970s, state policy extended the statutory right to bargain to public employees. School employees have struggled for over ten years to establish their rights under PERA. The schools and school employees have developed a successful pattern of bargaining under PERA for nearly six years. MS. DOUGLAS also said that bargaining provides public employees a good participatory way to influence decisions that affect the work place. At the bargaining table, public employees share in the decision making process affecting wages and working conditions. They have become more responsive and better able to exchange ideas and information on school operations with their administrators. Successful businesses are moving to management models designed to involve employees in a meaningful participatory role. Studies have shown that successful school reform occurs in school districts where mature bargaining relationships exist. MS. DOUGLAS stated that if HB 248 were to become law, labor relations between school districts and school employees would be disrupted. Good faith bargaining would give way to politics. Management and school boards would have great latitude to delay and forestall the bargaining process. Some school districts could submit the question of continuance, under PERA, to voters annually or during each round of bargaining. In effect, local governments could use this bill to become "right to work" employers. School, municipal, borough or state employees will lose. Inconsistencies between units and school districts would occur. The bargaining process would be weakened and, in some instances, destroyed. She said the bill calls for a vote of the people. Who pays for the election? Will the election activate adversarial clashes between the special anti-labor groups with agendas opposed to working people? MS. DOUGLAS' last statement was that we live in a republic where representatives are elected to make decisions for their constituency in view of the public good. HB 248 proposes a poor approach to their decision making. The issue of inclusion of school employees, under PERA, has been debated on the state level. A majority of the legislature, after weighing carefully the facts and information, decided it is good policy. In its declaration of policy, Section 23.40.070, "The legislature finds that joint decision making is the modern way of administering government." Number 277 CO-CHAIR IVAN asked Karla Feeley to come forward and testify. Number 285 KARLA FEELEY, Assistant Executive Director, NEA, directed the attention of the committee members to the opening section of the Public Employees Relation's Act. She stated this act was adopted because the legislature felt it was good public policy. This act would ensure labor peace and better service to Alaska's customers, the citizens and students of the state, because it would allow a voice for those in the front serving customers. Upon reviewing recent literature pertaining to private sector management, there is a consensus that companied work best when front line employees are included in decisions. This is what bargaining does and what applies to the private sector also applies to the public sector in this instance. The bargaining law was good public policy when passed and Ms. Feeley urged the committee members not to adopt HB 248. Number 303 CO-CHAIR IVAN asked for questions or comments and then invited Clarence Bolden to testify on HB 248. Number 307 CLARENCE BOLDEN, Field Staff, NEA, stated his experience in working with districts not primarily on the roadway system, and that the communities are accustomed to the calm way negotiations carried out primarily because of PERA. There is a clear understanding now that PERA has been in the state for some time on how this process works. He stated that he fears what would happen if the committee adopted the bill and that communities' calmness would be destroyed. Number 321 CO-CHAIR IVAN asked for comments or questions from the committee. He didn't see any other witnesses signed up to testify on HB 248. Number 328 REPRESENTATIVE KOTT asked if a member from the Department of Labor would be willing to answer questions regarding the department's position on this matter. Number 336 MR. ED FLANAGAN, Assistant Commissioner, Department of Labor (DOL), said the department has a position but currently there is no coordinated administrative position because there hasn't been any chance for affected departments to get together. The Department of Labor is opposed to this legislation. He said the DOL sees the bill as "union busting." This would have the effect of taking employees that have had collective bargaining rights for 23 years and removing the security in those rights. PERA fosters and promotes the welfare of wage-earners around the state of which public employees are a large portion. Number 358 REPRESENTATIVE KOTT questioned the department's opposition even though the developing change should ultimately reduce the work load. Number 363 MR. FLANAGAN said it is possible that there would be a period of very intense increased work load depending on who had the jurisdiction over the numerous unfair labor practice charges that would result. These may go straight to the courts rather than to the agency. The Department of Labor would not have quite so much work if the government repealed all the statutes. Number 372 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY questioned Mr. Flanagan's referral to the bill as a union busting bill. He asked whether the Department of Labor was in the business of promoting unions. Number 375 MR. FLANAGAN replied that the department was in the business of promoting the welfare of the wage-earners in the state. The department feels that the right to collectively bargain is deserved by everyone in the free world. Number 381 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY asked if Mr. Flanagan was aware that the City and Borough of Juneau is not covered by PERA. Number 383 MR. FLANAGAN said that he was aware. All those areas not covered have statutes that are similar to PERA, and incorporated with other municipalities that bargain, you are faced with the vast majority of state public employees. Number 390 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY asked whether Mr. Flanagan questioned the fact that the Municipality of Anchorage is free to determine the structure of how it constructs its labor relations. The municipality isn't bound to a state statute. Number 394 MR. FLANAGAN replied that it is not and some believed that was the intent of the Koslosky Amendment, to allow municipalities to develop their own system of labor relations. The effect in those communities that do opt out is that their system of labor relations means no labor relations. They ignore efforts by the employees to organize. Number 401 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY questioned a previous comment made about an ordinance very similar to PERA. Number 406 MR. FLANAGAN stated that some of the municipalities that have opted out have not formed an ordinance similar to PERA, and others have and it all depended upon the opt out of their municipality. Number 415 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY referred to the change in the statutes, in 1992, that brought school districts under PERA. Number 417 MR. FLANAGAN confirmed this and said they were changed and renewed in 1992. He also said that school teachers were probably represented by a union and very few school classified employees were. These latter employees were excluded from any rights that teachers had until 1988, when they got the full rights. The rights these classified employees had before did not have finality, meaning they didn't have a right to strike or binding arbitration. The rights were really a diminished form of collective bargaining with no finality to the process. Number 432 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON commented on the City and Borough of Juneau and their decision to opt out but they did have a collective bargaining process which they have opted into with more than one union. Even though they opted out of PERA, they didn't opt out of collective bargaining. Number 440 CO-CHAIR AUSTERMAN asked Mr. Flanagan if the Department of Labor believed that all municipalities and school districts ought to be part of PERA and have collective bargaining mandated by state law. Number 446 MR. FLANAGAN stated that it wasn't the issue but in past legislatures there were efforts to go the other way from the current legislation and to remove the Koslosky Amendment. The Department of Labor would support a bill like that but is not expecting to see one. He said this bill does two things as far as opting under PERA, any municipality can currently do this and the city of Fairbanks did so back in 1989. Number 457 CO-CHAIR IVAN asked for questions or comments from committee members. He welcomed the testimony from anyone else in the audience. Then he asked the desire of the committee concerning HB 248. Number 464 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY suggested that the bill be held until a teleconference could be scheduled for a future meeting to see if there was more testimony from the public. Number 470 REPRESENTATIVE KOTT stated that there were additional committees of referral and the next committee referral was the Labor and Commerce Committee which be the most appropriate committee for HB 248. Number 276 CO-CHAIR IVAN again questioned the desire of the committee concerning the bill. Number 477 REPRESENTATIVE KOTT made a motion to move HB 248 out of the Community and Regional Affairs Committee, with individual recommendations, and the accompanying fiscal note. Number 479 CO-CHAIR IVAN asked if there were objections. REPRESENTATIVE ELTON objected. CO-CHAIR IVAN asked the committee secretary to call a role vote. A roll call vote was taken and Representatives Austerman, Ivan, Vezey and Kott voted to move HB 248 out of the committee. Representative Elton voted against moving the bill out of the committee. The motion passed on a vote of 4 to 1.