By ART CHANCE
Late in the evening of Aug. 1, the State and the Inland Boatmen’s Union reached a tentative agreement.
A tentative agreement is an agreement the respective bargaining teams agree on, but it must be ratified by the membership of the union and under Alaska law approved, or at least not rejected, by the Legislature. IBU is holding their ratification vote today.
The IBU sold this strike pretty hard, so if the union didn’t get what it was striking for, the membership may not ratify it. If they don’t, we would be back where we were on July 31.
If they do ratify, the Governor is legally obligated to report the monetary terms, those requiring an appropriation or which effect the time worked for State employees, to the Legislature. For you bloodthirsty sorts out there; the Governor’s designees signed this agreement so he cannot oppose it or veto the Legislature’s actions.
It is a muddled mess as to what happens with Legislative approval. The 1999 changes to Section 210 of the Public Employment Relations Act turned it into a dog’s breakfast and nobody really knows what it means. What is sure is that if something in the contract requires an appropriation and the Legislature doesn’t approve that appropriation, the contract is disapproved. There are lots of permutations of this question that involve a long, hard road to the Alaska Supreme Court.
The tentative agreement cannot be effective, at least to its monetary terms, until Legislative action. The Legislature is not in Session. If there is another Special Session, Governor Dunleavy can put the IBU agreement on the call. If there isn’t another Special Session, the Governor has 10 days to submit his Report of Monetary Terms to the next Session in January. Again, the monetary terms cannot be effective until acted on by the Legislature.
So, if the IBU ratifies, they return to work under the terms of their expired agreement and they remain under those terms until legislative action.
In the unlikely event the Legislature doesn’t approve the monetary terms of the new agreement, IBU must return to the bargaining table and we play this game again.
I’ve done this stuff a whole lot more than anyone doing it for the State these days, and I wouldn’t have made a deal with the IBU unless I got pretty much everything I wanted. The State has already taken the PR and economic hit, so it is IBU’s time to pay. If the union didn’t get pretty much everything it wanted, it probably won’t ratify the agreement; we’ll see Friday evening or Saturday.
If the Dunleavy Administration comes out of this with a reasonable agreement, they’ve fallen in the outhouse and came out smelling like a rose. Nonetheless, the State lost a goodly portion of a tourist season and millions of dollars of revenue; it should have been foreseen and much of it could have been prevented The Administration needs to up its game.
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.