It’s not fair!


I had a sign over my cubicle during the Cowper and Hickel Administrations that said “F**k Fair.”   

I hated the union whines about how something or another was “NOT FAIR.”   Well, genius, tell me how it violates the contract, which they rarely could.   

The union-owned Knowles weenies made me take my sign down. I replaced it with one that said, “When the enemy is in range, so are you.”

The State has filed an unfair labor practice (ULP) complaint against the two largest unions of State employees over their refusal to cooperate with a change to a new bi-weekly pay schedule.  

Art Chance
Art Chance

 I may have filed one or two ULPs against them but it would not be like me; I’m a “Carl von Clausewitz” kind of guy (Prussian general of note) who takes the strategic offensive and assumes the tactical defensive and makes them attack me. In layman’s terms, that means I would do something I knew they would hate and would wait for them to file some action against me.

Some background: An unfair labor practice isn’t a lawsuit or a grievance.  The distinction between a grievance and a ULP is that a grievance alleges a violation of a contract and goes to arbitration, the result of which can be appealed to the courts.  

A ULP alleges a violation of the bargaining law, the Public Employment Relations Act, AS 23.40. et seq, (PERA) and must be heard by the Alaska Labor Relations Agency.   

In this case, the State foolishly agreed to contract terms that required a contract modifying Letter of Agreement to move to a new payroll scheme.   

I was a part of implementing a couple or three new payroll systems, and we did it with no grievances or ULPs, because we actually knew how to do labor relations. But, then, I didn’t know how to rent apartments like their go-getter of a labor relations manager.

The courts really don’t like labor and employment disputes so they always defer to an administrative agency with specific subject matter expertise.  After the administrative agency hears and decides the matter, the courts will review the decision to determine if it offends the law.

A mandatory subject of bargaining under PERA is a matter of wages, hours, or terms and conditions of employment, and a union and an employer must bargain about mandatory subjects.  A pay scheme is a mandatory subject.   

The term “unfair labor practice” really isn’t about fair; it is about practices that are illegal under the bargaining law.  It is illegal for the unions to refuse to bargain with the State over the new pay scheme. It is illegal for the unions to refuse to bargain in good faith over the implementation of a new scheme. It doesn’t mean they have to agree to anything, but it does mean they can’t just throw up obstructions to avoid an agreement.

Since I find myself giving the State lots of “paint by numbers” instructions from the sidelines, here’s what they should have done. When the unions wouldn’t bargain with them or didn’t bargain in good faith, they should have declared impasse and implemented their new pay scheme. Then the unions would have had to file a ULP to stop the State from the unilateral implementation. You’re the employer, you sign the paychecks; you make them stop you. 

But then, I’m not a nice guy.

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. 


  1. Art, After decades or representing management in matters of labor relations it is my experience that my superiors would quiver when the possibility of an unfair labor practice (ULP) was raised by a union. A grievance would do the same, but to a lesser degree. To the uninitiated the term unfair labor practice has a sinister implication. No boss, no company wants to be perceived as unfair. They exude the mantra “can’t we all get along.” Fact is labor unions are an adversary of management, and the higher when goes up the management ladder the harder it is for them to grasp that concept.

    A perfect example is Harvard’s School on Negotiation. Their overriding concept is that labor unions are good and bargaining concessions on the part of management are necessary. The problem with that is that after a few negotiating cycles management has nothing more to give but complete capitulation. By then the unions are in control.

    Management would be well advised to begin filing ULPs of their own each time a union fails to uphold their part of the collective bargaining agreement or seeks prerogatives outside of the agreement.

    • I have a Hahvud “Program on Negotiation” certificate, but I went and sent most of my staff at considerable expense as a “know your enemy” course. I got thoroughly sick of being told how wonderful “interest based bargaining” was by every cowardly manager and politician I dealt with. IBB is simply a scam to enable cowards and crooks to look like they’re actually managing in the employer’s interest when all they’re really doing is kowtowing to the union.

    • Further, most US diplomatic negotiators are from the Ivies and all have the Hahvud disease. That’s why we have such terrible diplomatic and trade agreements; our negotiators have given half the farm away before negotiations even begin. It’s also why President Trump has been so successful with negotiations; he’s a classical “positional bargainer” who takes a position in his interest and stays on that position until you can either persuade him off it or knock him off it.

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