Art Chance: Dirty deeds, done expensively, hiding labor agreements in the operating budget

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By ART CHANCE

As I was researching my column on the AFL-CIO’s war on Alaskans’ Permanent Fund dividend, I discovered something nobody has been talking about: the fix is in for the AFL-CIO to get about the equivalent money as the PFD and energy stipend for their own members, and has it safely ensconced in the operating budget.

While nobody was looking or saying anything, the Dunleavy Administration has been bargaining with State employee unions and has reached agreements with at least some of them. The agreements appear to be on a pattern of a three-year agreement with general wage increases of 3.5% – 2% – CPI capped to 5%. 

If you believe the CPI will be less than 5% three years from now, let’s get together and talk about my bridge. That is a 10% general wage increase over the next three years, in addition to the merit or longevity step increases of about 3% per year.

The average wage for a general government employee, one of the units to which this agreement would apply, is about $75,000/year, so that is a $7,500 general wage increase over three years, plus step increases. If the employee is in merit steps, less than five years seniority in the job classification, s/he will get a 3-3.5% increase each year. After five years the employee moves into longevity steps, which are 3% increases at intervals of every two or three years. Nice work if you can get it, but rest assured they all think they’re overworked and underpaid.

The unions don’t like it, but they can’t just buy a governor and get sweetheart deals automatically. The “monetary terms” of an agreement must be reported to and approved by the Legislature, and the Legislature hasn’t always approved. Gov. Bill Sheffield negotiated a deal with most of the unions for the 1984-1986 term that had a 3.6% increase in 1986. The price of oil went in the toilet in 1985 and the Legislature refused to fund that third-year increase; a decade and a half long war ensued.

Prior to the oil price crash, the State’s labor relations policy had generally been to “ask the unions what they want,” and nobody really understood much about the rights and duties of the parties. Gov. Jay Hammond got a little frisky with the supervisors and they went on strike, but it was mostly a charade. Then the marine unions struck and getting them back to work was akin to “The Ransom of Red Chief.” Nobody wanted to play rough with unions after that but in the mid-80s the State had to, and first it had to learn how.

State bargaining is controlled by the Public Employment Relations Act (AS 23.40.070-260). Section 215 of PERA set out the Legislature’s authority over monetary terms and the process by which the Administration was to report the monetary terms. I don’t recall the precise terms of the commissioner of Administration’s report in 1984, but in the critical year, 1986, the Sheffield Administration asked for a supplemental appropriation to support the wage increases called for by the agreements. The Legislature refused to pass the supplemental, and the Supreme Court held that the refusal constituted the disapproval action authorized by Section 215.

We kept an uneasy peace during the Steve Cowper Administration, basically one was scared and the other was glad of it. During that uneasy peace, we who came to State labor relations during the Cowper Administration got very busy trying to figure out how to work that PERA thing.

During the Hickel Administration, one of the things we concentrated on was figuring our what Section 215 required. I wrote a briefing memo late in the Hickel Administration that set out our best understanding of the rights and duties of the parties. That memo served as a “how-to” manual during Hickel and became a “how to work around it” manual in the Tony Knowles Administration.

The work around culminated when the Knowles Administration “worked with” the Legislature to revise Section 215 in such a way as to render it incomprehensible. During my tenure as Director of Labor Relations during the Murkowski Administration I negotiated 28 discrete labor agreements including full three-year agreements for the last three  years of the Administration. I did it the old-fashioned way with a detailed report of all the monetary terms to each body of the Legislature and we put a separate line in the budget for the cost of the terms of each agreement. I don’t remember if the Legislature ever took an approval action on the report but they did approve the appropriations, which had the same legal effect.

After the Frank Murkowski Administration, I don’t think any action was taken on monetary terms reports, and costs of labor agreements were just included as increments in budget requests. I doubt this comports with the Legislature’s intent in enacting Section 215, but the Alaska Supreme Court has concluded that approval of the budget is sufficient. 

I don’t think the Gods in Black Robes really considered the mischief that could be done by just hiding labor agreement costs deep in the operating budget.

So, now that you’ve had a crash course in the PERA that you didn’t sign up for, the heart of the matter is this: The AFL-CIO can make a kill shot on the PFD for people who lost work and lost jobs and businesses during the scamdemic, because with either the acquiescence or complicity of the Dunleavy Administration, they have baked a payment of even more money into the operating budget that is to go to the people who never missed a day’s pay during the scamdemic.

Let’s see which legislators vote for what. If they did not vote for the full PFD and the energy stipend but vote for the operating budget, you know they bought into the fix and they don’t represent the people but rather the special interests.

Art Chance is a retired Director of Labor Relations for the State of Alaska, formerly of Juneau and now living in Anchorage. He is the author of the book, “Red on Blue, Establishing a Republican Governance,” available at Amazon. 

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24 COMMENTS

  1. It is so disgusting that not only my home town, Anchorage, my state, Alaska, and my country, USA, have all gone completely devious, hateful, and not just worthless, but totally destructive!

  2. Dunleavy is a eunuch.

    There are two groups in Alaska. Government unions and everyone else.

  3. Thanks Art. Since I won’t get my PFD, how do I get a State job at 66 years of age? Think I can hold out for five years or more to get a decent pension and steal from the rest of the State to support my greed? Unlike them, I have a conscience – it won’t happen. Now we really know which side Princess Helicopter Hair is on and all the other lawless legislators who vote to kill the PFD are on.

    • I hope you enjoyed your grandstanding moment. You took 4 months of rent from people but you made damn sure to protect your per diem.

      God willing it will bite you hard.

    • How about you do two things

      1-Write a column for MRA detailing exactly why you went against your own written commitments on the PFD.
      Open yourself up to the people you screwed. And have the stones to respond to the onslaught that will come.

      2-Explain why, if you’re so worried about unsustainable budgets you voted to protect your Per diem before you did one damn thing else.

      Show the courage of your convictions.

  4. And look at president trump he did it for free remember for free. A citizen would do it for free if it was to behoove the rest of us citizens for the people of the people by the people we get our full dividend then. A successful Alaska business owner would do it for free and the citizens would do better. No stop our old flocks who got nothing else to do could do it much much better and for free just to behoove us ALL

  5. Art, great piece but you stopped short. How about the shamed, former governor Bill Walker who unilaterally trimmed the PFD to the satisfaction of his union buddies? Walker is full-on pro union and his campaign donors are proof. If we get this old pedophilia-enabler back in the governor’s mansion, the statutory PFD will be a goner and the unions will get those pay increases for years to come……..at the expense of all Alaskans.

  6. Come on Art! Come back! Alaskan need you to go back to protecting them from themselves.
    Obviously, the C.B.C. is still alive and well in Juneau. And will continue to be as long as the legislature continues to meet there.

  7. What an insight. Thanks for sharing the history and the fact that it does indeed repeat itself.

  8. It has been apparent for years that the legislature is NOT working for the people making the wheels go around in the economy. The unions will never get enough and will always want more until the goose is dead.

  9. When you follow the money it leads to a thoroughly corrupt legislature and apparently, the Governor’s mansion! Bye, bye PFD.

  10. I still stand by my belief that the Public Service Unions need to be abolished. They work for We The People and we should have more of a say in what they get. If they don’t like then go to the private sector. I have argued with Beltramy a few times and I can tell you with the utmost certainty he is a complete ID 10 T.

  11. Same story over and over: give public employees raises every year and bonuses and let us in the private sector, who haven’t seen a pay increase for years and are now coping with high inflation, pay for it! This cannot work!

  12. Once again, Suzanne’s small cadre’ of experienced, intelligent contributory writers show the facts and the truth to Alaskans. Democrats can only dream they have that kind of deep, investigative fire-power.
    Reading Left-wing oriented trash is like reading Dr. Suess’ throw-away, unpublished material. Not even good enough for the fantasy section.

  13. Until folks realize that politicians and special interests don’t care about them and see them as only as a revenue stream, this is what you’ll get every time.
    Just give them your wallet and get the heck out of the way.

  14. Public sector employment has been out of parity with the private sector for years, especially retirement and benefits. Sadly though the percentage of voters that are employed by government is so high now and they seem to dominate voter turnout.

    • Quite simply, unions seem to be in control of our state government, our legislature, and our state budget. No wonder the Commies are loving it.

  15. Well said Mr. Chance. I still hold to the premise that unions are a natural reaction to an enterprise that works to maximize profits by exploiting labor. However if there is no profit to be gained as in pubic goverment service there should not be a need for a union. Full stop.

  16. The greatest expansion is in Medicaid costs isn’t it? Not against the necessary expansion but must be balanced by other reductions for enforcements for reduced industries.

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