Legislature(1993 - 1994)

03/10/1994 03:00 PM L&C

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
  HB 255 - LOCAL EXEMPTION FROM PERA                                           
  CHAIR HUDSON announced HB 255 as the next bill before the                    
  committee.  He introduced Rep. Al Vezey as the prime sponsor                 
  of the bill and asked him to join members at the table.                      
  REP. VEZEY stated that Mr. Easaw was prepared to give the                    
  opening statement.                                                           
  Number 480                                                                   
  JOSEPH EASAW, JR., staff, Rep. Al Vezey, provided the                        
  following sponsor statement on HB 255:                                       
  The intent of HB 255 is to allow municipalities the option                   
  of removing themselves from PERA (Public Employees Relation                  
  Act).  Under this proposed legislation, a municipality could                 
  make such a decision with the approval of the voters of the                  
  It was the intent of the 1972 legislation to allow                           
  municipalities to opt out of PERA.  As the law currently                     
  exists, a municipality under PERA, for all practical                         
  purposes, cannot remove themselves.  This determination has                  
  been brought about by decisions of the court.  This                          
  condition has resulted in diminished control over local                      
  Existing legislation as interpreted by the courts has put                    
  local governing bodies in a position where one governing                     
  body can obligate all future governing bodies.  This bill is                 
  intended to correct what the legislature has inadvertently                   
  allowed the court to mandate on local governments by placing                 
  the decision making process back into the hands of local                     
  governing officials and the people.                                          
  Number 540                                                                   
  REP. SITTON asked what HB 255 would do to employees                          
  currently in collective bargaining agreements in                             
  Number 548                                                                   
  MR. EASAW responded that if there is a collective bargaining                 
  agreement in place it will remain in effect.                                 
  Number 555                                                                   
  REP. SITTON stated he saw the list of municipalities who had                 
  the chance to opt out of PERA and didn't and wondered if HB
  255 was requested by them in order to give them another                      
  Number 560                                                                   
  MR. EASAW replied that the intent of the language does not                   
  give any time frame for those municipalities to act.  That                   
  decision came by court decision in 1975 in the case of                       
  Petersburg vs. State.  Mr. Easaw stated that some interpret                  
  the decision to still allow municipalities to opt out.                       
  REP. MULDER asked if his understanding was correct that                      
  current law provides that municipalities will be included in                 
  PERA unless they opt out and HB 255 would change the law to                  
  say that PERA would not apply to municipalities unless the                   
  municipality holds an election as set out in subsection (b).                 
  MR. EASAW stated that under current statutes if you are a                    
  new municipality forming you have a reasonable amount of                     
  time to opt out of PERA.  He said PERA does not permit a                     
  municipality to opt out of it after its employees have                       
  started to organize.                                                         
  Number 592                                                                   
  REP. MULDER asked if under HB 255 a municipality is out of                   
  PERA unless they opt in.                                                     
  Number 595                                                                   
  MR. EASAW replied that that was true.                                        
  Number 600                                                                   
  CHAIRMAN HUDSON stated that it was his understanding that                    
  the court has ruled that a political subdivision may not opt                 
  out if there is any organizational steps being taken by the                  
  Number 606                                                                   
  MR. EASAW stated that the court has said that you cannot opt                 
  out of PERA unless you have done so in a reasonable time                     
  frame after organization.                                                    
  Number 616                                                                   
  REP. PORTER asked if a city currently under PERA would be                    
  able to opt out of PERA without a vote of the people if HB
  255 passed.                                                                  
  Number 619                                                                   
  MR. EASAW replied that HB 255 expressly states that in order                 
  for a community to opt out they must go to a vote of the                     
  TAPE 94-22, SIDE A                                                           
  Number 001                                                                   
  MR. EASAW stated that as he understood labor contracts, if a                 
  negotiation is ongoing, the expired contract remains in                      
  Number 020                                                                   
  REP. PORTER asked, if a city is currently in PERA, can they                  
  take a vote of the community to determine if they want to                    
  opt out?                                                                     
  MR. EASAW answered that he was correct.                                      
  CHAIR HUDSON asked Joan Wilkerson to testify.                                
  Number 057                                                                   
  JOAN WILKERSON, Southeast Regional Manager for APEA/AFT,                     
  testified in opposition to HB 255.  Ms. Wilkerson stated she                 
  was also speaking for the Alaska AFL/CIO and its 50,000                      
  members state wide.                                                          
  MS. WILKERSON provided the following statement for the                       
  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 Alaska's workers.  By establishing a revolving                  
  door system of opting in or out of PERA, the bill would not                  
  only deny the basic human right to collectively bargain with                 
  their employer to employees in political subdivisions which                  
  opt out of the system, but would also render meaningless the                 
  system left behind for those areas which continue to bargain                 
  with their employees, since the notion of "good faith                        
  bargaining" 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 will tie both the courts and the                      
  labor relations agency in knots.  Even where a healthy and                   
  viable bargaining relationship exists between the local                      
  government and its employees, a small number of anti-union                   
  voters in a community, sufficient to put the issue on the                    
  ballot by initiative, can require annual elections with the                  
  attendant expenditure of public and private resources better                 
  used elsewhere.                                                              
  PERA has governed public employment relations in this state                  
  for 20 years.  There was nothing "inadvertent" about its                     
  intent to apply to political subdivisions.  A floor                          
  amendment allowed a one-time "opt-out," of which many                        
  municipalities have made use.  Some, such as Fairbanks and                   
  Cordova, have subsequently elected to opt back in.                           
  Some decisions must be final and binding.  The decision to                   
  engage in good faith bargaining with employees is one such                   
  decision.  We urge you to go on record in support of                         
  collective bargaining and keep this bill in committee.                       
  Number 150                                                                   
  CHAIRMAN HUDSON asked Ms. Wilkerson what the positive                        
  benefits of PERA were for municipalities as well as for                      
  Number 152                                                                   
  MS. WILKERSON replied that the bill as it currently exists                   
  is essentially a bill of rights for public employees in the                  
  state of Alaska.  It allows them to exercise their                           
  fundamental constitutional rights to association by virtue                   
  of their relationship with each other as employees of a                      
  public government, as a public entity.  It creates and                       
  answers to the Alaska Labor Relations Agency.  It permits                    
  corporations to form through the associations of these                       
  employees and to collectively bargain with employers.  In                    
  her limited exposure to municipalities and boroughs who have                 
  opted out, the employees have virtually no rights at all.                    
  It was her understanding from PERA itself, that the initial                  
  intent of the legislature was that if a political                            
  subdivision was going to opt out of PERA, that they should                   
  pass an ordinance which would more or less take the place of                 
  PERA.  She has seen this in action in a municipality in                      
  Southeast Alaska that did opt out and passed personnel rules                 
  which are so vague in nature that they do not afford the                     
  rights incumbent in PERA.  The most basic of those rights,                   
  which are at issue right now, are the right to bargain, and                  
  for the employee the right to defend themselves through                      
  exercising the right to strike, or to send a matter to                       
  binding arbitration.                                                         
  Number 179                                                                   
  REP. PORTER stated that it was his understanding that if a                   
  municipality wanted to opt out of PERA they would have to                    
  provide some mechanism for bargaining.  He added that he                     
  disagreed with Ms. Wilkerson regarding an employee's rights.                 
  He does not believe an employee would lose any rights if                     
  they were not in PERA.                                                       
  Number 193                                                                   
  MS. WILKERSON said she was not specifically speaking to the                  
  Anchorage Municipality, which Rep. Porter referred to, but                   
  she was speaking of another municipality.  She added that it                 
  would be important to note that each municipality is                         
  different without PERA.                                                      
  Number 215                                                                   
  REP. MULDER stated that in 1992 the Anchorage teachers were                  
  included in PERA.  He asked, if Anchorage has opted out of                   
  PERA, are the teachers out as well?                                          
  Number 230                                                                   
  REP. PORTER answered that teachers are still in PERA.                        
  Number 235                                                                   
  REP. SITTON asked for an elaboration regarding binding                       
  arbitration noted in the resolution from the City of                         
  REP. PORTER replied it only applied to Class 1 employees,                    
  which are only cops and firemen.                                             
  Number 250                                                                   
  MS. WILKERSON added that binding arbitration was also                        
  dictated by statute.  She stated that there were two kinds                   
  of binding arbitration:  (1) interest arbitration -- the                     
  negotiation process itself and (2) the grievance process.                    
  Number 250                                                                   
  CLAUDIA DOUGLAS, President, National Education Association                   
  testified against HB 255 and SSHB 255.  Ms. Douglas read the                 
  following statement for the record:                                          
  The bill will allow municipalities or other political                        
  subdivisions, including school districts, to conduct an                      
  election to determine if employees are to continue under the                 
  provision of AS 23.40.070 - 23.40.260.                                       
  Since the early 1970's state policy extended the statutory                   
  right to bargain to public employees.  School employees                      
  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 four                  
  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 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 relations exist.                                           
  If SSHB 255 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 greater 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 short the school, municipal, borough or state employee                    
  would lose. Inconsistency between units and school districts                 
  would occur.  The bargaining process would be weakened and                   
  in some instances destroyed.                                                 
  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?                                                           
  We live in a republic where representatives are elected to                   
  make decisions for their constituency in view of the public                  
  good.  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 the policy, it said, "the legislature finds that joint                    
  decision-making is the modern way of administering                           
  government."  We urge you to oppose this bill.                               
  Number 308                                                                   
  CHAIRMAN HUDSON announced that he did not intend to move HB
  255 at this time.  He stated that he wanted the committee to                 
  hear the opposing sides.                                                     
  CHAIRMAN HUDSON adjourned the meeting at 5:02 p.m.                           

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