Legislature(1995 - 1996)

03/21/1995 01:05 PM CRA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= 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                 
 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
 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                
 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            
 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
 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.                            

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