PERA Canvass, March 21, 2019

Kristi Larson and Ken Carr of the canvass board count votes in Seward's Referendum No. 1.

The results are in from Tuesday’s vote on Referendum No. 1, which would opt the city back into the state’s Public Employment Relations Act. The referendum has passed with 164 in favor and 122 against.

The results remain unofficial until certified by the City Council at its upcoming meeting on Tuesday, March 26. The council will not have a meeting at the usual time on Monday, as March 25 is Seward’s Day.

The referendum repeals a 1975 ordinance that originally rejected the application of the Public Employment Relations Act to Seward, leaving most labor policy in the hands of the City Council.

Now, questions about collective bargaining will generally be referred to the six-member Alaska Labor Relations Agency, which oversees union certification elections, hears complaints regarding unfair labor practices and enforces collective bargaining agreements.

The final count came after the canvass board met Thursday afternoon. A small crowd had gathered in the council chambers to witness the count, including three council members – Sue McClure, Sharyl Seese and Suzi Towsley – and Seward Public Employees Association President Patrick Messmer.

“I feel great. I’d like to thank the citizens of Seward, those who voted, whether for or against. It takes a lot to be a participant in the community,” Messmer said. “I’d like to thank the people who did the canvassing with us and everyone who helped out, from our team to the public who supported us. And the former city manager and the City Council as well for the way they handled their side of things.”

Messmer said that he expects PERA to keep negotiations fair in the future and to protect the employees ability to organize.

“The employees are going to gain some confidence knowing that the union can’t just be summarily dismissed,” Messmer said. “That was the biggest thing we were worried about with city code. We’ll also be able to negotiate, I think, in a more fair manner, because, there’s unfair labor practices that are defined in PERA.”

PERA prohibits any actions that interfere with an employee’s right to “self-organize and form, join, or assist an organization to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and engage in concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.”

The canvass board members were Jennifer Carr, Ken Carr, Johanna Kinney, Kristi Larsson, Dorothy Osenga and Susie Urbach.

Correction, March 21, 2019: The canvass board met on Thursday, not on Tuesday as originally reported.