City Council Addresses City Employee Unionization

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

There will soon be a new petition for city worker unionization circulating in Kodiak. The Kodiak City Council found out about it at its work session last night.

Deputy City Manager Mike Tvenge said he and City Manager Aimée Kniaziowski met with representatives of Teamsters Local 959 in April.

“And during that initial meeting, the business representatives explained that they were contacted by the employee groups of the city that wanted to organize, so sounds like our employees reached out to the union, and they were following up with us during that meeting to gather information about the interest in their union representation.”

Tvenge explained that in 1988 the city opted out of the State of Alaska Public Employees Relations Act, or PERA, which ensures public employees the right to organize and bargain collectively. He also said previous attempts to vote the city into PERA have failed.

John Whiddon, who was on the city council the last time unionization came up, said voters should have background information on what unionization would mean for the city, financially.

“I think it’s important to know what the cost to the city will be and about the impact… the real, factual impacts to the city … the last go around we heard a lot of information – a lot of communities have unionized and the ongoing costs to manage the CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) seemed excessively high I thought. I didn’t see the breakdown, but it was very, very high.”

The city spent thousands of dollars to defeat a similar vote several years ago.

Councilman Rich Walker said the city should try negotiating with employees to see if it can reach an agreement to ease the cost of living.

“Making sure that our people have a living wage is a big deal. I mean, to be able to keep people here, to keep young people to stay here and keep our economy growing. A lot of families, a lot of young people with young families. It’s tough. Just like some other people mentioned, it is tough here if you don’t have a steady job.”

The ballot petition will begin circulating on May 31 and needs 149 signatures, which is 25 percent of the number of people who voted in the last city election, to go forward. The deadline for collecting the required signatures is July 5.

Should the petition pass, the question to allow city employees the right to vote on organizing would be placed on the fall ballot in October.

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