Legislature(1993 - 1994)

01/25/1994 01:00 PM CRA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
  Number 024                                                                   
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE AL VEZEY, CHAIRMAN OF HOUSE STATE AFFAIRS                     
  COMMITTEE, PRIME SPONSOR OF SSHB 255, testified saying, "In                  
  1972, the State of Alaska Legislature and the Governor                       
  signed into law the Public Employees Relations Act.  There                   
  were provisions in the Act for communities to either select,                 
  to go out from under the coverage of the Act, or to stay                     
  under the Act, or come under the Act.  Since that time, all                  
  but 13 communities in the State of Alaska have opted out                     
  Public Employees Relations Act (PERA).  The court decisions                  
  that have occurred since 1972, particularly the Kodiak case,                 
  the Petersburg case, which are attached as part of your                      
  packet, the legislature has preempted, what I believe, was a                 
  very clear intent on the part of the legislature, to provide                 
  for a democratic means for communities to decide whether or                  
  not they want to be covered by PERA.  When the statute was                   
  passed in 1972, local determination was kept at a maximum,                   
  and I would refer you to the 1972 Session Laws of Alaska                     
  where it talks about (indiscernible).  That is the enabling                  
  clause that talks about communities being able to opt in or                  
  opt out.  (A copy of those Session Laws are on file.)   But                  
  subsequent court decisions, as I said, have modified the                     
  legislatures original intent of the law.  Now, it's not                      
  necessarily impossible, but almost impossible, for a                         
  community that is under the PERA to, on its own, opt out of                  
  the system, which is to say that one governing body of a                     
  community can convince all future governing bodies of a                      
  community.  This bill merely provides a means of correcting                  
  what amounts to the court enactment of legislation or laws,                  
  by providing a democratic process that would allow                           
  communities to decide whether they want to be under the PERA                 
  provisions or whether they wanted to opt out."                               
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE BILL WILLIAMS joined the committee at 1:09                    
  p.m.                                                                         
                                                                               
  Number 085                                                                   
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE CON BUNDE said, "We have considerable                         
  response from what I assume are state workers in POMs                        
  (public opinion messages), and a comment from the municipal                  
  league, but no other reaction from the general public.  How                  
  many people or municipalities, governments would you                         
  anticipate would hold an election to opt out or opt in?"                     
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY replied, "I have no idea.  Apparently                   
  there are three communities - Bethel, Kotzebue and Haines                    
  which are going through court procedures trying to opt out.                  
  I would predict they'll be unsuccessful, but I don't know.                   
  I just assume if they're unsuccessful in their in their                      
  court, they might elect to go through the democratic                         
  process."                                                                    
                                                                               
  CHAIRMAN OLBERG referred the committee to the third page of                  
  the Legislative Research Agency's Research Request #93.232                   
  dated July 8, 1993, which lists Alaskan communities by their                 
  PERA status.  (A copy of this report is on file.)                            
                                                                               
  Number 112                                                                   
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE JOHN DAVIES said, "In the justification for                   
  this, and in your statements just now, you said that one                     
  body obligates all future bodies.  I'm not sure that I                       
  understand how that is.  It seems to me that the obligation                  
  is derived more from the community, and the test has been                    
  whether or not public employees have chosen to organize or                   
  not.  It's not the governing body that's making the                          
  obligation, but the combination of the actions of the public                 
  employees and the 1972 legislature."                                         
                                                                               
  Number 130                                                                   
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY replied, "PERA is not a unilateral                      
  grant of the right to collective bargaining.  This is a                      
  process that among other things provides for binding                         
  arbitration.  It's the court decisions that have decreed                     
  that...you read the enacting statutes of '72 and it appears                  
  to me...the very clear legislative intent was communities                    
  can have self determination on whether they elect to be                      
  covered by PERA or not.  The supreme court has said that                     
  there was a window opening and those communities that did                    
  avail themselves of the window have sacrificed forever the                   
  opportunity of doing so.  So all this bill is doing, really,                 
  is trying to put the legislation of law back into the                        
  legislative, the elected body as opposed to the court                        
  system, where it is right now."                                              
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE clarified, "I assume that window was                    
  for opting out."                                                             
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY said, "Yes, that window was for opting                  
  out."                                                                        
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE said, "Would the same window apply for                  
  someone that would want to opt in?"                                          
                                                                               
  Number 145                                                                   
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY said, "It doesn't appear to, but there                  
  have been no lawsuits over trying to get in to PERA."                        
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE CYNTHIA TOOHEY asked, "Do we need to adopt                    
  the substitute?"                                                             
                                                                               
  CHAIRMAN OLBERG said no.                                                     
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY said, "The sponsor substitute was read                  
  across the floor by the Speaker and it is the bill before                    
  you."                                                                        
                                                                               
  Number 166                                                                   
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES asked, "Is this a bill from State                      
  Affairs or is this a bill from Representative Vezey?"                        
                                                                               
  CHAIRMAN OLBERG said, "It says it is from State Affairs."                    
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES asked, "Has State Affairs adopted this                 
  bill?"                                                                       
                                                                               
  CHAIRMAN OLBERG said, "It has not been to State Affairs                      
  yet."                                                                        
                                                                               
  Number 178                                                                   
                                                                               
  VERNON MARSHALL, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NEA-ALASKA, testified                   
  in opposition to SSHB 255 by reading from a position paper                   
  he handed out to the committee members.  (A copy of this                     
  position paper is on file.)  He then added, "We feel that                    
  the sponsor substitute is a bad bill.  We feel the bill is a                 
  bad bill, and we would encourage the committee to oppose the                 
  legislation."                                                                
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE said, "You indicated that under the                     
  initial legislation, if I understood you correctly, schools                  
  were not allowed the option of opting out, but yet you feel                  
  that if this legislation passed, then schools would have the                 
  option of opting out, even though they didn't have the                       
  option originally."                                                          
                                                                               
  MR. MARSHALL replied, "We're changing the law to apply to                    
  other political subdivisions of the state and the question                   
  is, I guess we're taking the worst case scenario, we assume                  
  a school district is a political subdivision of the state,                   
  and they would follow under the umbrella of this particular                  
  bill and if so, the opt out provision through election would                 
  apply."                                                                      
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE referred the same question to                           
  Representative Vezey.                                                        
                                                                               
  Number 240                                                                   
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY said, "The only way I can answer that                   
  is to say that the law of 1972, and this isn't in statute,                   
  it's part of the enabling Act..." and he read from the                       
  Session Laws of 1972, Chapter 113, Section 4, where it says,                 
  "This Act is applicable to organized boroughs and political                  
  subdivisions of the state, home rule or otherwise, unless                    
  the legislative body of the political subdivision, by                        
  ordinance or resolution, rejects having its provisions                       
  apply."                                                                      
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY continued, "The Session Laws of Alaska                  
  1992...in 1992 the legislature enacted this provision                        
  amending the Session Laws of 1972, Title 23.40.070-260,                      
  notwithstanding Section 4, Chapter 113, Session Laws of                      
  Alaska 1972, a municipal school district or regional                         
  education attendance area may not reject application of                      
  Alaska Statute 23.40.070 to 23.40.260 to employment                          
  relations with public school employees.  As I understand                     
  your question, the answer is at this time, there is no way                   
  anyone who's covered by PERA (can) opt out.  The educational                 
  community cannot opt out by statute, the remaining political                 
  subdivisions cannot opt out..."                                              
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE asked, "Were your bill to pass, would                   
  schools then be able to opt out?"                                            
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY said, "The answer is yes.  The bill is                  
  written such that any political subdivision can opt out."                    
                                                                               
  Number 296                                                                   
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE TOOHEY asked, "Is this by vote of the                         
  members, or the municipality?"                                               
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY said, "It would be a vote of the                        
  citizens of the political subdivision."                                      
                                                                               
  ED FLANAGAN, SOUTHEAST REPRESENTATIVE, ALASKA STATE DISTRICT                 
  COUNCIL OF LABORERS, testified saying, "I am also speaking                   
  today on behalf of the Alaska AFL-CIO.  We adamantly oppose                  
  HB 255, as should all supporters of collective bargaining,                   
  because this bill is intended to do nothing less than                        
  eliminate collective bargaining for thousands of Alaskan                     
  workers employed by political subdivisions.  By establishing                 
  a revolving door, voted in one year, voted out the                           
  next...will not only deny the basic human right to                           
  collectively bargain with one's employer, to employees and                   
  political subdivisions which then opt out of the system.                     
  You'll also render meaningless the system you leave behind                   
  for those areas which continue to bargain with their                         
  employees, since the notion of good faith bargaining is                      
  essential to meaningful negotiation and a healthy                            
  relationship will cease to exist when an employer can always                 
  threaten to opt out if it doesn't like the way things are                    
  going in negotiations.  The immediate practical effect of                    
  this legislation will be full employment for attorneys, to                   
  the detriment of both taxpayers and employee groups.  The                    
  legal issues raised by an election to opt out while a                        
  collective bargaining agreement is in effect.  These issues                  
  alone will tie both the courts and your state labor                          
  relations agency in knots.  Even where a healthy and viable                  
  bargaining relationship exists...that is still subject to                    
  threat.  A small number of voters in the community with an                   
  anti-union (inaudible) of sufficient number to put the issue                 
  on the ballot by initiative, and then require an annual                      
  election on whether a municipality will continue to bargain                  
  in good faith and with the intended expenditure of both                      
  public and private resources which can certainly be better                   
  used elsewhere.  PERA has governed public employment                         
  relations in this state for twenty years.  There was nothing                 
  inadvertent about its intent to apply to political                           
  subdivisions.  The Koslosky Amendment, which opened the door                 
  to opt out was, in fact, a floor amendment and the courts                    
  have determined it was a one-time option.  The rationale                     
  given on the floor was to allow political subdivisions to                    
  develop their own systems.  In fact many of those that have                  
  opted out, their system is, we won't bargain, we won't                       
  recognize you.  Some decisions have to be seen by the                        
  political subdivisions and any government agency as final                    
  and binding.  This is certainly one of those decisions.  We                  
  urge you to go on record in support of collective bargaining                 
  and keep this bill in committee."                                            
                                                                               
  Number 347                                                                   
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE TOOHEY asked for clarification, "This is                      
  giving the local municipality the option to do this...to do                  
  it or not."                                                                  
                                                                               
  MR. FLANAGAN said, "It's currently mandated by the state,                    
  except for those political subdivisions which, within a                      
  reasonable period of time, which varies with the court                       
  decision of the enactment of PERA, I think the effective                     
  date was January 1, 1974, to elect to opt out or new                         
  political subdivisions as they are created, then have an                     
  opportunity to opt out.  But once you opt in or you're not                   
  taking affirmative action to opt out..."                                     
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE TOOHEY said, "You said that during a                          
  particularly messy bargaining, they can go to the people,                    
  that doesn't sound very practical."                                          
                                                                               
  MR. FLANAGAN said, "The way I see it and I think it's a very                 
  likely result, if a political subdivision currently under                    
  PERA is bargaining and having a tough bargaining situation                   
  with its employees, it doesn't like the way it's going.  It                  
  decides we'd rather just cut their wages without negotiating                 
  with them on it or impose some other things that are                         
  currently items that they have to negotiate, then they just                  
  say, fine.  We'll get somebody out there that can even do it                 
  at arms length.  We'll get somebody out there to get the 10                  
  percent or 15 percent of the voters in the last election to                  
  sign a petition on the initiative and then adios."                           
                                                                               
  Number 386                                                                   
                                                                               
  CHRYSTAL SMITH, DIRECTOR OF MEMBER SERVICES, ALASKA                          
  MUNICIPAL LEAGUE, testified in favor of SSHB 255 saying, "As                 
  many of you well know, there are a lot of municipalities                     
  covered by PERA and have some financial constraints as a                     
  result of their labor contracts, and we believe in giving                    
  maximum flexibility to the municipalities to deal with the                   
  situations that are facing them...  We just feel the need                    
  for local people to be able to decide whether they're                        
  covered by this or not."                                                     
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE said, "There are three municipalities                   
  currently trying to opt out.  Are there others on the                        
  horizon?"                                                                    
                                                                               
  MS. SMITH said, "I'm really not sure about that,                             
  Representative Bunde.  As a matter of fact, people have                      
  asked me how many are covered and I'm sorry...I don't                        
  know...it looks to me like about a third of the job classes                  
  of the ones that we cover are covered..."                                    
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES asked, "If we were to pass this and we                 
  got into the situation where there was negotiations going                    
  on, and the situation arose that we were just discussing,                    
  the municipality then would effectively have an election to                  
  opt out in the middle of the negotiating process.  Would you                 
  consider that to be an essentially fair labor practice?"                     
                                                                               
  MS. SMITH said, "I don't know whether I could say that was a                 
  quote, fair labor practice.  ...I'm certainly not a labor                    
  law expert at all..."                                                        
                                                                               
  Number 431                                                                   
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE asked, "We've got a situation where a                   
  municipality is finding difficulty in meeting their                          
  financial responsibilities based on contracts...what would                   
  be the time line for a municipality involved that wanted to                  
  opt out.  They aren't going to do this in two weeks."                        
                                                                               
  MS. SMITH replied, "No, if you're going to schedule an                       
  election its going to take a considerable amount of time I                   
  think, you're talking maybe three months in terms of getting                 
  an election scheduled.  It's nothing you can pass like that.                 
  Boom."                                                                       
                                                                               
  CHAIRMAN OLBERG said, "It might be a court of last resort,                   
  but it isn't going to be a negotiating tool...because of the                 
  time lag it takes to hold an election."                                      
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE WILLIAMS said, "There are some contracts that                 
  do take a little bit longer than two weeks to negotiate.                     
  Sometimes two or three years."                                               
                                                                               
  MS. SMITH said, "Well certainly within the two to three year                 
  period, you would be able to schedule an election."                          
                                                                               
  Number 462                                                                   
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE asked, "You're presenting the stand of                  
  the municipal league.  Is this an unanimous position?  How                   
  much input did you have?..."                                                 
                                                                               
  MS. SMITH said, "This is a position that the league has held                 
  for some time.  Its been in our policy statement as long as                  
  I've worked at the league, which is about six years now...                   
  Our policy statement itself is readopted every year..."                      
                                                                               
  Number 480                                                                   
                                                                               
  CHAIRMAN OLBERG said, "I'd like to say that in the last year                 
  we've had a number of local control issues come before us                    
  and sometimes it's interesting to see who's for and who's                    
  against.  But I think that anytime we can put the democratic                 
  process back somewhere near the individual voter in a                        
  practical way that we serve a worthwhile purpose."                           
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE ED WILLIS said, "I personally believe in the                  
  individual right to collective bargaining.  The American                     
  worker has through literally many, many dozens of years both                 
  nationally and the state level worked to win these rights,                   
  and I personally consider a right to bargain collectively in                 
  the same realm that I hold a civil right.  I think that the                  
  workers have this right whether it's in the private sector                   
  or the public sector...I oppose this bill."                                  
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES agreed with Representative Willis's                    
  testimony and added, "If we were to apply this, that it                      
  would open up just a rats nest of all kinds of legislation,                  
  and it would not be practical, and it would not be fair to                   
  the workers of the State of Alaska."                                         
                                                                               
  Number 525                                                                   
                                                                               
  CHAIRMAN OLBERG said, "I must be hanging around with the                     
  wrong people, because the perception I have is that many                     
  people who do not work for any government entity observe                     
  that public employees generally have become, how can I say                   
  this, an elite group of workers.  World class benefits,                      
  world class salaries, world class vacations.  My nearest                     
  relationship with a place where I think this perception is                   
  very evident is Fairbanks, Fairbanks and the Fairbanks North                 
  Star Borough.  The City of Fairbanks particularly, I think,                  
  has some financial problems that if they can't be addressed                  
  any other way, maybe this is a way to keep the city out of                   
  bankruptcy.  But unionism has evolved over the last fifty                    
  years into something that perhaps isn't recognizable as it                   
  was in its earlier form.  Somebody, somewhere, sometime, is                  
  going to have to give something back or we will, as a                        
  society, collapse of our own inertia and our own weight.                     
  And I'm not suggesting that public employees are the only                    
  people that ought to consider giving something back.  I'm                    
  suggesting that it's one segment of our society that might                   
  consider giving something back.  As a consequence, I favor                   
  this legislation, because it does give local communities the                 
  option to decide how their lifestyle relates perhaps to                      
  their local public employees lifestyle and maybe there needs                 
  to be some parity there."                                                    
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES said, "Being from Fairbanks...there                    
  are two entities in Fairbanks.  There's the Fairbanks North                  
  Star Borough and the City of Fairbanks.  There's been a lot                  
  of dissention within the City of Fairbanks, in terms of                      
  relationship between the city government and the union                       
  workers there.  And there's been a lot of attempt to hang                    
  the financial problems on the City of Fairbanks on the backs                 
  of the union workers.  The Fairbanks North Star Borough does                 
  not have that problem.  The Fairbanks North Star Borough has                 
  about five different collective bargaining units.  They                      
  negotiate in good faith.  They come to agreements with their                 
  workers.  So I don't think we can point to unionism as the                   
  problem.  Rather it's the management of the City of                          
  Fairbanks."                                                                  
                                                                               
  CHAIRMAN OLBERG asked, "Did I leave that impression?  I                      
  think it's difficult to compare the Fairbanks North Star                     
  Borough and the City of Fairbanks, because the services they                 
  provide are so very much different..."                                       
                                                                               
  Number 576                                                                   
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE TOOHEY said, "I just see coming down the                      
  line, Anchorage going through the same thing that Fairbanks                  
  has gone through.  I support the Chairman's position one                     
  hundred percent..."                                                          
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE said, "I'd observe that Anchorage isn't                 
  under PERA.  They opted out.  And they're still having                       
  trouble meeting their obligations..."                                        
                                                                               
  Number 584                                                                   
                                                                               
  CHAIRMAN OLBERG clarified, "I'm not here to suggest that                     
  it's an employee problem and not a management problem.  I                    
  think in the case of the City of Fairbanks, I think that I                   
  would agree with you that management deserves as much of                     
  the, if we're going to pass blame around, certainly there's                  
  enough blame to pass around for everybody and I'm not                        
  suggesting that management, city administrations, public                     
  entity administrations, aren't as much of the problem as                     
  anybody else."                                                               
                                                                               
  Number 593                                                                   
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE said, "I'm still having trouble                         
  understanding where the drive for this legislation is coming                 
  from.  There are three small communities that are in the                     
  process of trying to opt out when they had the window twenty                 
  years ago, the majority of the people stayed in and yet I                    
  hear from the Municipal League that this has been a request                  
  for years..."                                                                
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY said, "I think we've all seen a lot of                  
  changes in the last six years, but you cannot confuse the                    
  intent of this bill with collective bargaining.  This bill                   
  does not take away collective bargaining rights.  We have a                  
  system in Alaska called PERA.  It provides for parameters in                 
  which collective bargaining and settlement of disputes takes                 
  place.  Other municipalities, other political subdivisions,                  
  the majority of them, use a different system of conducting                   
  their collective bargaining and I feel it should be up to                    
  the local citizenry as to which system they choose to use to                 
  negotiate their relationships, their contracts with their                    
  employees.  I don't know how many different systems there                    
  are in this state.  I know Anchorage has one that's                          
  different than...Soldotna has probably the most unique                       
  system in the state.  They take their collective bargaining                  
  and they put their best proposal on the ballot, and the                      
  other side puts their best proposal on the ballot, and                       
  whichever one gets the most votes wins.  There are other                     
  means of structuring collective bargaining."                                 
                                                                               
  CHAIRMAN OLBERG said, "The people who've opted out are by                    
  and large, if not entirely, collectively bargaining with                     
  their employees in some fashion, I would think.  Somebody                    
  mentioned the fact that if negotiations weren't going well                   
  the administration would opt out of PERA.  It brings to mind                 
  a personal case in Cordova right now, where there's a                        
  tremendous financial crunch coming and the employees are now                 
  deciding maybe they should have a collective bargaining                      
  unit.  It works both ways.  And that's not to say it's not a                 
  valid concern, but where finances are a serious                              
  problem...the more flexibility and the more local control                    
  you have, the better in my opinion."                                         
                                                                               
  Number 628                                                                   
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES said, "I do think that because of the                  
  possibility of dragging the negotiations out to one, two,                    
  three years that, if we were to pass this bill, that it                      
  would in fact, be an attack on organized labor and on the                    
  ability to bargain, because it would be held as a threat                     
  that we could just drag this thing out and we'll just renew                  
  contracts until we get an election and take the right to                     
  bargain out from under you...  This legislation is indeed an                 
  attack on the ability for the workers to negotiate their                     
  salaries and benefits and working conditions."                               
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE TOOHEY moved to pass the bill out of                          
  committee with individual recommendations.                                   
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES objected to the motion.                                
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE WILLIS also objected to the motion.                           
                                                                               
  A roll call was taken.  Representatives Davies, Willis and                   
  Williams voted NO.  Representatives Bunde, Sanders, Toohey                   
  and Olberg voted YES.  THE MOTION CARRIED.                                   
                                                                               
  Number 650                                                                   
                                                                               
  CHAIRMAN OLBERG adjourned the meeting at 1:25 p.m.                           
                                                                               

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