Legislature(2003 - 2004)

03/17/2003 01:45 PM Senate HES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
            SB  95-72-HOUR NOTICE OF TEACHER STRIKE                                                                         
CHAIR FRED DYSON announced SB 95 to be up for consideration.                                                                    
SENATOR LYDA GREEN, sponsor of SB  95, said that some people have                                                               
a  hard time  during  the period  between the  time  a strike  is                                                               
noticed  and the  time  it  begins. SB  95  would require  public                                                               
school  employees  to  provide a  school  district  with  written                                                               
notice  of  an impending  strike  72  hours  prior to  any  labor                                                               
action. Current  labor regulations allow public  school employees                                                               
to strike  without prior  warning to the  school district  or the                                                               
community. Without  a provision mandating proper  notice, student                                                               
safety  is severely  compromised.  Seventy-two  hours would  give                                                               
parents  sufficient time  to  make  alternative arrangements  for                                                               
their children  if schools are  actually going to be  closed. The                                                               
primary purpose of  SB 95 is to allow time  for a school district                                                               
to make the best decisions  and inform students, parents, and the                                                               
community of that decision.                                                                                                     
CHAIR DYSON asked how much  notice is required now. Senator Green                                                               
said she would try to find that information.                                                                                    
MR. BRUCE  JOHNSON, Association of  Alaska School  Boards (AASB),                                                               
said the  board supported  SB 95. Student  safety is  the primary                                                               
reason that  working families  need some  advance notice  to make                                                               
arrangements for their children. However,  he said the AASB needs                                                               
clarification of  what the 72-hour notice  actually includes. For                                                               
instance, does  it mean  school employees  have to  strike within                                                               
that time or do they give notice and then strike one week out.                                                                  
SENATOR  GREEN pointed  out that  language  on page  2, line  26,                                                               
says,  "If advisory  arbitration fails,  a strike  may not  begin                                                               
until at  least 72-hours after  notice of the strike."  She noted                                                               
however, that a strike is not mandatory.                                                                                        
MR. JOHNSON  responded that is  one interpretation, but  it could                                                               
also mean  that a strike can't  begin before 72 hours,  but could                                                               
also begin 200 hours after the notification has been given.                                                                     
SENATOR GREEN asked if "advisory arbitration" has a definition.                                                                 
MR.  JOHNSON replied  that  advisory arbitration  is  one of  the                                                               
steps  that  must be  taken  before  any  action towards  a  work                                                               
stoppage can occur.                                                                                                             
MR.  PETE  FULLER,  Southeast  Regional  Manager,  Alaska  Public                                                               
Employees  Association, said  the Public  Employee Relations  Act                                                               
already  provides  for  a  relatively  complicated  and  somewhat                                                               
detailed procedure  as the collective bargaining  process reaches                                                               
culmination.  There is  also a  process whereby  the parties  are                                                               
permitted  to voluntarily  participate  in advisory  arbitration,                                                               
which might bring about a binding result to those negotiations.                                                                 
He said it seems to  him that imposing, particularly a one-sided,                                                               
notice period for  the union begins to unbalance  the process and                                                               
might  stimulate unnecessary  saber  rattling  and posturing.  He                                                               
stated, "At least  if there's going to be notice,  there ought to                                                               
be notice imposed on both  parties rather than having a no-notice                                                               
lockout and a requirement of notice for strike action."                                                                         
MR. FULLER  said he  had been  in Alaska for  only two  years and                                                               
hadn't heard of  any school district strikes;  employees had been                                                               
able to negotiate  settlements. He thought this  rule might bring                                                               
too much structure and imbalance  to the negotiating process when                                                               
it's at its most delicate point.                                                                                                
CHAIR DYSON  asked if by school  district strike he meant  a walk                                                               
MR. FULLER replied no, he meant  a strike is an action instigated                                                               
by employees.                                                                                                                   
CHAIR  DYSON said  Senator  Green's primary  interest  is not  to                                                               
imbalance  the bargaining  process, but  to protect  kids and  to                                                               
give families time  to adapt to a situation. He  asked Mr. Fuller                                                               
if  federal  law  already contains  a  requirement  for  adequate                                                               
MR.  FULLER  replied  that  he wasn't  aware  of  a  notification                                                               
requirement   in   federal   law,  but   federal   laws   require                                                               
notification  of a  strike  that  takes place  in  a health  care                                                               
facility. He thought  that when a strike  approaches, the parties                                                               
would  be mutually  concerned about  the children  and take  that                                                               
into consideration. He added:                                                                                                   
     If  the legislature  feels the  need to  insure against                                                                    
     the wayward party that wouldn't  do that, then we would                                                                    
     like  to  see  that  protection balanced  so  that  the                                                                    
     protection doesn't  create an  unfair advantage  to one                                                                    
     party or the other in the bargaining process.                                                                              
SENATOR GREEN  said this is not  meant to be a  bargaining issue.                                                               
She expressed  concern that children  have shown up at  school in                                                               
the winter and no one is there.                                                                                                 
CHAIR DYSON  said he knows  that making the  public uncomfortable                                                               
or angry helps your bargaining position.                                                                                        
MS.    BARBARA   HUFF-TUCKNESS,    Director,   Legislative    and                                                               
Governmental  Affairs, Local  959,  opposed SB  95. She  actually                                                               
negotiates collective bargaining  agreements within the Anchorage                                                               
School District  and believes  this bill is  a direct  assault on                                                               
the collective bargaining process. If  passed, SB 95 would have a                                                               
significant  impact on  both parties'  positions at  a bargaining                                                               
table.  If the  parties  reach a  deadlock  or impasse,  advisory                                                               
arbitration takes  place prior to  any strike vote.  Both parties                                                               
look  at  the  advisory  opinion   and  sometime  it  is  another                                                               
opportunity  to bring  the parties  together and  other times  it                                                               
lays the groundwork  on where the parties are as  they go through                                                               
the  negotiations. There  is the  ability to  declare impasse  or                                                               
deadlock even after the advisory  opinion if the parties have not                                                               
reached any  conclusion to the  process. At that time,  they have                                                               
the right as  representatives of their employees  to make notice.                                                               
Once it reaches  the advisory opinion, often  something makes the                                                               
headlines in  the newspaper. She  added that she makes  an effort                                                               
to educate her people prior to a strike and said:                                                                               
     If  you've never  been  at the  table,  it is  somewhat                                                                    
     difficult  to find  that level  playing  field, but  in                                                                    
     this  day and  age with  the employers'  right to  hire                                                                    
     striker replacements, when  you're attempting to define                                                                    
     how much notice  an employee has to get,  where it ties                                                                    
     in -  and as the Senator  asked earlier - my  intent is                                                                    
     not to impact the process....                                                                                              
She  gave  an example  of  a  1999  bus  driver strike  that  the                                                               
teamsters were involved  in. She gave public  notice with written                                                               
paid  ads  in  the  newspaper prior  to  taking  official  strike                                                               
action.  Since   1999,  she   has  negotiated   three  collective                                                               
bargaining agreements  that have  been successful and  she hadn't                                                               
heard if any  strikes since then. She  encouraged the legislature                                                               
to let  negotiations take place at  the table and not  attempt to                                                               
legislate that process.                                                                                                         
CHAIR  DYSON asked  her  if  she was  saying  the 72-hour  notice                                                               
should be part of negotiated bargaining.                                                                                        
MS. TUCKNESS  replied yes  and that was  her suggestion  when the                                                               
bill  was  introduced  in  1999  as  well.  She  offered  another                                                               
     If  there was  such  a public  concern about  employees                                                                    
     within  the  school  districts   going  out  on  strike                                                                    
     instead of  requiring them  to go  out and  strike, why                                                                    
     not make it  mandatory that they can't  strike and give                                                                    
     them binding arbitration instead?                                                                                          
SENATOR GREEN asked if she would support binding arbitration.                                                                   
MS.   TUCKNESS  said   she  mentioned   it  as   an  alternative.                                                               
Additionally, she  was concerned  that language  on page  2, line                                                               
20, (b) was  very limiting and restrictive  and could potentially                                                               
create an inherent conflict with a selected arbitrator.                                                                         
SENATOR GREEN said that language  is currently in statute, but it                                                               
had been moved from  page 1, line 10 to a new  section on page 2,                                                               
line 11  and might look a  little different. The only  actual new                                                               
language is  in the underlined sections  on page 1 and  section 2                                                               
on page 2.                                                                                                                      
MS.  TUCKNESS   concluded  that  Teamsters  Local   959  is  very                                                               
concerned about  the bill and hopes  that it doesn't move  out of                                                               
MR. CARL  ROSE, Association  of Alaska  School Boards,  said this                                                               
issue  was resolved  in the  early '90s  when the  discussion was                                                               
about   binding  arbitration.   The  legislature   placed  school                                                               
employees  in classification  A3,  which provided  them with  the                                                               
right  to  strike. He  thought  school  districts understand  the                                                               
economic  and political  pressure  that's brought  to  bear by  a                                                               
strike and  the bill simply  is asking that school  employees not                                                               
compromise student safety. That is the extent of their concern.                                                                 
CHAIR DYSON  asked if it  is impractical to include  an agreement                                                               
on the  amount of hours  of pre-notification  per day as  part of                                                               
the contracts.                                                                                                                  
MR. ROSE  replied that he didn't  think it is impractical  and it                                                               
could be a negotiating point unless it conflicts with law.                                                                      
CHAIR DYSON  thanked everyone for  their comments and  closed the                                                               
discussion on SB 95.                                                                                                            

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