Legislature(2003 - 2004)

04/28/2003 05:23 PM House EDU

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB  95-72-HOUR NOTICE OF TEACHER STRIKE                                                                                       
[Contains discussion pertaining to HB 128, the companion bill]                                                                  
Number 0040                                                                                                                     
CHAIR GATTO  announced that  the only  bill before  the committee                                                               
today would  be SENATE BILL NO.  95, "An Act relating  to strikes                                                               
by  employees   of  a  municipal  school   district,  a  regional                                                               
educational  attendance area,  or  a state  boarding school,  and                                                               
requiring  notice of  at  least 72  hours of  a  strike by  those                                                               
CHAIR GATTO [who had sponsored HB  128, the companion bill in the                                                               
House]  told  the committee  that  SB  95  is a  bill  concerning                                                               
student safety  and is  sponsored by Senator  Lyda Green.   Chair                                                               
Gatto said it  is his goal to get the  bill through the committee                                                               
today.  What  the bill says is that the  legislature is concerned                                                               
that the possibility exists that  students will be dropped off at                                                               
school during contentious times of  negotiations.  It is possible                                                               
for a  teacher's union  to call  a strike  immediately and  go on                                                               
strike at  that time.   He  emphasized that this  bill in  no way                                                               
restricts  teachers' ability  to go  on strike.   It  simply says                                                               
that  in  all  fairness  to students  and  working  parents,  the                                                               
legislature would  prefer to  have a warning.   The  question has                                                               
come  up in  the past  during  negotiations when  the sides  were                                                               
definitely not close to an agreement.   The schools have asked if                                                               
they  could have  a 24-hour  notice and  there was  no answer  to                                                               
their question.   There was  an understanding that the  union was                                                               
not going  to give that to  them.  That is  the justification for                                                               
SB  95, which  simply  says  72 hours  is  not  asking too  much,                                                               
especially  when the  unions have  said that  they would  do that                                                               
anyway.  Chair Gatto said that  there is no objection to the bill                                                               
and for the  most part, from talking to union  officials, they do                                                               
not object  to it.  They  asked for something in  return he said,                                                               
but "we"  do not want to  complicate this language.   If there is                                                               
another issue,  the legislature will  take it up with  a separate                                                               
bill.  If  the unions have something they are  interested in, the                                                               
committee will certainly hear it.                                                                                               
Number 0321                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  OGG  asked  if  Chair  Gatto  would  entertain  a                                                               
CHAIR GATTO  responded that there  are two people who  would like                                                               
to testify on the bill first.                                                                                                   
Number 0333                                                                                                                     
SENATOR LYDA GREEN,  Alaska State Legislature, sponsor  of SB 95,                                                               
told the committee  that she believes Chair Gatto did  a fine job                                                               
in explaining the bill and that  she would be available to answer                                                               
questions from the members.                                                                                                     
Number 0394                                                                                                                     
KIM FLOYD,  Public Information Officer,  Matanuska-Susitna School                                                               
District, testified in support of SB 95.   She said that she is a                                                               
parent of  two school-aged children  and asked the  committee not                                                               
to  allow anyone  to confuse  what is  really the  issue in  this                                                               
bill.   She said  Chair Gatto  pointed out  exactly what  this is                                                               
about.  This bill is not  about contracts or about adults, but is                                                               
about student safety.  Ms.  Floyd said she strongly supports this                                                               
bill not only  as a parent because she cares  about the children,                                                               
but as a  communicator because it would be very  difficult in the                                                               
case of  a last-minute  strike to  get the  word out  to parents.                                                               
She told the committee that 40  percent of the parents commute to                                                               
Anchorage.   They  leave early  in  the morning,  making it  very                                                               
difficult to  get the word  to them.   One child  left unattended                                                               
would  be one  too  many.   Things happen  when  parents are  not                                                               
around to  watch over them.   She reiterated her support  of this                                                               
legislation and  said that she  believes the 72 hours'  notice is                                                               
necessary to cover  the Friday to Monday weekend  timeframe.  Ms.                                                               
Floyd said  she appreciates Senator  Green's sponsorship  of this                                                               
bill and the committee's support.                                                                                               
Number 0553                                                                                                                     
PAULA HARRISON,  Director, Human  Resources and  Labor Relations,                                                               
Matanuska-Susitna  School District,  testified in  support of  SB
95.  She  told the committee the district  appreciates both Chair                                                               
Gatto's and  Senator Green's support  of this legislation.   This                                                               
bill is  about student safety.   As  the committee may  know, the                                                               
district has had problems in the past on this issue.                                                                            
Number 0598                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON moved  to report  SB 95  out of  committee                                                               
with  individual  recommendations  and  the  accompanying  fiscal                                                               
Number 0657                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GARA  objected.  He  explained that he  had missed                                                               
part of the introduction of the  bill and he had a few questions.                                                               
Unions say that they would normally  give 72 hours' notice in any                                                               
case and that has some persuasive power  to it, but he said he is                                                               
wondering about the  other side of the issue.   Is there really a                                                               
problem  that would  be solved  by this  legislation?   Are there                                                               
really instances when unions have not given 72 hours' notice?                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE   SEATON  referred   Representative  Gara   to  an                                                               
Anchorage  Daily News  editorial  dated January  16, 1999,  after                                                             
this occurred.  He told the  committee it was on a Thursday night                                                               
that the  strike vote  was taken  and the  strike was  called for                                                               
Friday.  It  was after the evening  news, so there was  no way to                                                               
get the notice out through the  news.  So students came to school                                                               
and there was a student  safety problem because the teachers were                                                               
not there.  He said  [Chair Gatto] had introduced the [companion]                                                               
bill  as student  safety legislation,  which  allows parents  the                                                               
assurance of student safety.                                                                                                    
CHAIR  GATTO commented  that the  strike  did happen  and it  was                                                               
strategically timed.  He emphasized  that it was not the teachers                                                               
who went  out on  strike; it  was the  classified employees.   It                                                               
happened, and  this bill  would see that  parents are  not blind-                                                               
sided like  that and that  it is not  an option available.   This                                                               
bill does not affect anyone's right  to strike.  It is very clear                                                               
that the right  to strike remains intact.  He  said he encourages                                                               
people to exercise that right if  that is the decision they make,                                                               
but with that goes the responsibility to the students.                                                                          
Number 0833                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GARA  told the committee  his other question  is a                                                               
bit complex.   There is a  lot of language under  the current law                                                               
that is  deleted starting at page  1, line 10, and  going through                                                               
page 2,  line 11.   This has to do  with the whole  procedure for                                                               
advisory arbitration.   He  asked, if the  union gives  a 72-hour                                                               
notice,  whether that  entitles them  to  go out  on strike  even                                                               
after 72  hours.  For instance,  could they go out  on strike 120                                                               
hours or 200 hours later?  He asked  if the union has to wait for                                                               
the  advisory  arbitration to  be  scheduled  or to  be  resolved                                                               
before the 72-hour rule kicks in.                                                                                               
Number 0910                                                                                                                     
SENATOR GREEN replied  that on page 1, line 10,  and through page                                                               
2,  line 11,  the language  is deleted  and immediately  restored                                                               
beginning with  page 2,  lines 12-25 [new  subsection (g)].   She                                                               
pointed to language  beginning on page 2, line 26,  which says in                                                               
         (2) if, under (1) of this subsection, advisory                                                                         
       arbitration fails, a strike may not begin until at                                                                       
     least 72 hours after notice of the strike is given                                                                         
SENATOR GREEN pointed out that the  same procedure is in place in                                                               
the  future as  it is  now.   So if  advisory arbitration  fails,                                                               
notice  will  be  given  before   a  strike  by  school  district                                                               
employees can occur.                                                                                                            
Number 1049                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GARA  asked for clarification that  under existing                                                               
law  and  under  SB  95,  no strike  may  occur  before  advisory                                                               
arbitration fails.                                                                                                              
SENATOR GREEN replied that she assumes that is true.                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE GARA asked  if there is any  limitation that would                                                               
prevent a  union from  saying they  believe they  will be  out on                                                               
strike 72  hours from now,  but it might be  120 hours or  a week                                                               
from now.  Is there anything  that holds the union to the 72-hour                                                               
timeframe, as opposed to a longer period of time?                                                                               
SENATOR GREEN responded that she  could not answer that question.                                                               
She said she assumes there would be a "date certain" advisory.                                                                  
Number 1086                                                                                                                     
JACQUELINE  TUPOU,  Staff to  Senator  Lyda  Green, Alaska  State                                                               
Legislature,  responded  to  Representative  Gara's  question  by                                                               
saying that  according to  case law, it  defines what  notice is.                                                               
Notice  is enough  information to  let a  reasonable person  know                                                               
that when notice  of a strike is given, the  strike will occur on                                                               
this date and at this time.   She summarized by saying the unions                                                               
could place  the strike more  than 72  hours out, but  the notice                                                               
would have to say  exactly when it would occur.   That is part of                                                               
the notice requirement.                                                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA  asked  how   the  72-hour  notice  will  be                                                               
interpreted.   What happens if  a union gives its  72-hour strike                                                               
notice but  it is off by  a couple of  days as to when  it begins                                                               
its  strike?   For  instance,  a  union  gives a  72-hour  strike                                                               
notice, but  then they do not  go out on strike  because they are                                                               
continuing to  try to work things  out.  A week  later, the union                                                               
determines that it is not working.   In this case, can the school                                                               
district tell the union they cannot  go out on strike because the                                                               
72-hour notice has passed?                                                                                                      
Number 1181                                                                                                                     
MS. TUPOU responded that they could  not do that.  The definition                                                               
of notice  is very strict.   It  says if a  union wants to  go on                                                               
strike, they  must give at least  72 hours' notice prior  to when                                                               
the strike will  occur.  So if  the union says they  will start a                                                               
strike on  Wednesday and  Wednesday passes,  the union  no longer                                                               
has given strike notice.  So  if the union wanted to strike after                                                               
that  date,  they would  have  to  give  72  hours' notice.    So                                                               
whatever is noticed is binding.                                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE GARA  commented that  this bill may  actually have                                                               
the  opposite effect.   If  a union  has given  a 72-hour  strike                                                               
notice, it  is making  progress and  does not want  to go  out on                                                               
strike; however,  on the other hand,  if the union does  not want                                                               
to go through the 72-hour  notice provision again, then the union                                                               
could go  out on  strike just to  avoid another  three-day strike                                                               
SENATOR  GREEN  reiterated  that when  the  advisory  arbitration                                                               
fails,  a strike  may not  begin until  72 hours.   She  told the                                                               
committee that  there is an  assumption that a certain  series of                                                               
events occurred that brought the  participants to failed advisory                                                               
arbitration.  The  second issue is the safety of  students.  This                                                               
bill is not  trying to get into  one side or the  other side; she                                                               
said this  is about  parents' having  a right  to know  that when                                                               
they drop their children off at  school there will be school that                                                               
day.  Or if  parents drop their children off at  the bus stop and                                                               
go on  their way to  work in Anchorage,  parents have a  right to                                                               
know they are  not leaving their children at a  phantom bus stop.                                                               
That is all this is about.   It is about proper notice for action                                                               
among adults.                                                                                                                   
Number 1324                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GARA  said that he  is surprised that no  one from                                                               
the unions came  to testify.  He  said he does not  see any other                                                               
problem with the bill and believes it may be a good idea.                                                                       
Number 1336                                                                                                                     
CHAIR  GATTO  commented  that  the   thought  of  leaving  little                                                               
children at the  bus stop [when no bus will  be coming] is scary,                                                               
but what is even scarier is  high school students' being left all                                                               
day long unsupervised.  So this  is important for all age levels.                                                               
He told the committee he has  talked to union officials about the                                                               
bill, and  they have assured him  that they would never  [fail to                                                               
give  notice]  anyway;  however,   if  the  legislature  believes                                                               
legislation is necessary, they have no objection.                                                                               
Number 1388                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA withdrew  his objection  to reporting  SB 95                                                               
from committee.                                                                                                                 
Number 1393                                                                                                                     
CHAIR  GATTO asked  if there  were  objections to  the motion  to                                                               
report SB  95 from committee.   There  being no objection,  SB 95                                                               
was reported from the House Special Committee on Education.                                                                     

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