Traini introduces measure to repeal city's labor law

Nathaniel Herz

Assemblyman Dick Traini introduced a measure Wednesday night to repeal the controversial labor law that was passed by the Assembly earlier this year with the support of Mayor Dan Sullivan.

The measure appears to have the support of the majority of the Assembly, after member Bill Starr asked to be listed as a co-sponsor -- effectively reversing his prior position on the labor law.

Assemblyman Adam Trombley said in an interview that he could "potentially get behind" Traini's repeal effort.

The labor law, which passed in March by a 6 to 5 vote, has been the subject of a bitter and extended fight between the city and Anchorage's municipal unions.

The measure limits annual raises for city workers to the rate of inflation plus one percent, and it standardizes their benefits across different unions. It also sets up a system to allow outsourcing of union work.

"There's been way too much effort, too much money, too much hatred over 37," Traini said in an interview, referring to the labor law by its number. "Let's simply repeal it, and get it gone."

Sullivan, who introduced the bill to the Assembly last February with members Jennifer Johnston and Ernie Hall, could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Assembly did not discuss Traini's measure on Wednesday night. It will be up for public hearing at the Assembly's next meeting, on Oct. 22.

Traini has fought the labor law since it was introduced. But both Trombley and Starr voted for it, and their willingness to reconsider comes as a surprise.

They said that they had not talked to Traini about the repeal measure before it was introduced, but both acknowledged that it had been a possibility.

Trombley said that he was "worn out by how partisan and torn apart the city is," while Starr said he had decided that the broad nature of the labor law, which affects all the city's union employees, wasn't the best model "for the public, for the user groups, and for us."

"I think it's time to pull it off the table," he said.

The city's unions have already spent months trying to repeal the labor law through a referendum campaign, and turned in some 22,000 signatures last month to put the issue before voters.

The Assembly was split, however, on when to schedule the referendum vote, and before Traini made his move to repeal the law at the Wednesday meeting, members were hearing testimony on two competing measures.

One, pushed by the labor law's opponents, would put the referendum on the ballot at the next city election, in April. A second, pushed by the labor law's supporters, would most likely move a vote back to August or November of 2014, in tandem with a state election.

A string of city workers and union officials had lined up to register their displeasure with the latter plan, which they said was stretching the intent of the city charter, and designed to keep labor from influencing the outcome of the city election in April.

"It seems to matter more about who wins than doing what's right by the charter, and by the citizens of this city," said Vince Beltrami, the president of the Alaska AFL-CIO.

Johnston, however, contended that the city workers and union groups had their own motivations for pushing for the referendum to be scheduled in April.

"Does everyone have an agenda? Uh, yes," she said in an interview.

The Assembly ultimately postponed a vote on the competing schedules until its next meeting, when it will consider the measures along with Traini's move to repeal the labor law.

If the repeal passed, Sullivan could respond with a veto, which the Assembly would then need eight votes to overturn, Traini said.

Reach Nathaniel Herz at or 257-4311.