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Anchorage unions turn in referendum signatures

Posted: September 17, 2013 - 8:20pm

Officials with Anchorage municipal unions say they have turned in more than enough signatures to place a measure before voters that would repeal a law restricting union powers.

Unions turned in 22,136 voter signatures, more than triple the required 7,124 to place the measure on the ballot, the Anchorage Daily News reported Tuesday.

The Anchorage Assembly voted 6-5 on March 26 to approve what Mayor Dan Sullivan calls The Responsible Labor Act. The law prohibits union members from going on strike and eliminates binding arbitration.

City officials this summer challenged the referendum effort, but Superior Court Judge Eric Aarseth ruled last month that it could move forward. The city could appeals that decision but must do so by the end of this week.

Deputy Municipal Clerk Amanda Moser said her office will begin reviewing signatures for the referendum Tuesday and finish by Sept. 25.

If the referendum moves forward, the Assembly could either schedule a special election or include the vote in the April municipal elections, union officials said.

Moser said a special election would cost the city $280,000.

The signatures were gathered in 25 days, one day earlier than the deadline to put the new law on hold, said Gerard Asselin, a police patrol sergeant and president of the Coalition of Municipal Unions.

The unions had bitterly fought the new law.

“On the part of the mayor and his administration, it’s an attack on unions,” Asselin said. “But the downstream effect is, and the reality is, it’s an attack on employees themselves and their own stability.”

The new law would cover eight city unions, most of which Asselin said are now in negotiations with the city.

Union members, their family and friends were among those collecting signatures, including people paid to canvass. Asselin said Anchorage residents also turned up at union halls asking to sign petitions.

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