By Kevin Krummes
Last February, in the dark of the Alaskan winter, the Anchorage Assembly—with the backing of the Mayor—introduced Assembly Ordinance 37, or AO-37. This innocuous sounding bill created an immediate firestorm in Anchorage, pitting labor, who represented city employees, against politicians intent on busting unions.
The proposed ordinance would do the following:
- Base future wage increases on the Consumer Price Index, eliminating wage bargaining.
- Ban strikes, work stoppages, and slowdowns.
- Circumnavigate arbitration by awarding the final say in contract disputes to the Assembly, the same body that passed this legislation.
- Allow “managed competition,” which is code for outsourcing city jobs to private contractors.
After a tumultuous series of public hearings in which the Assembly chambers were jam packed, and with close to a thousand union members and supporters outside in the cold trying to get in, the Assembly on March 26 illegally cut off public testimony, and voted 6 to 5 to pass the ordinance.
Months of legal wrangling ended in August when an Anchorage judge ruled to allow a petition to place the ordinance on the ballot as a referendum. If the unions could get 7,200 signatures, Anchorage voters would decide the issue.
IBEW 1245 got involved after receiving a request from IBEW 1547 in Anchorage for help. IBEW 1245 sent a team consisting of myself, Cruz Serna, and Jaycee Dean. For two weeks we worked alongside our Alaskan brothers and sisters. We canvassed for signatures, went along with an IBEW 1547 organizer on a worksite visit, validated signatures, and entered voter information to be used in the upcoming election, the date of which has not yet been determined.
To see the solidarity among the different unions involved in this fight was remarkable. Much like Prop. 32 stirred up California unions in 2012, AO 37 has galvanized and energized the Alaska labor movement. On Sept. 16, one day before the deadline, a united and determined union front presented the Anchorage City Clerk with over 22,000 signatures, more than three times the needed amount.
Though we three members of IBEW 1245 played but a small part in this action, it was still a great feeling seeing the petitions reach City Hall. And while this battle was won, the war is far from over. With an election now looming, we wish our comrades in Alaska the best in mobilizing against and ultimately defeating this backwards and repressive piece of legislation.