Alaska teachers' union sends members strike ballots.FAIRBANKS, Alaska Alaska (əlă`skə), largest in area of the United States but third smallest (exceeding only Vermont and Wyoming) in population, occupying the northwest extremity of the North American continent, separated from the coterminous United States (AP) -- Strike ballots have been to the approximately 300 members of the Alaska Community College Federation of Teachers, the union representing faculty at University of Alaska rural campuses, including some two-year campuses, and the Tanana Valley The Tanana Valley is a lowland region in central Alaska in the United States, on the north side of the Alaska Range where the Tanana River emerges from the mountains.
The region experiences great extremes of temperature during the year. campus.
Ballots were due back Oct. 23, said Bob Congdon, union president.
"I think there will be overwhelming support," he said. "We hope that management will pay attention and try to protect the students from a strike by sitting down and negotiating a fair contract."
Bob Miller, a university spokesman, called the strike vote a "typical, strong-man tactic" by the union.
"The students should know we will do everything it our power to protect the students ... so classes will continue," he said.
The union and the university administration have been negotiating since September 2002, Congdon said. The contract expired in June, and bargaining teams have met several times with federal mediators. But the university and the union have been at an impasse im·passe
1. A road or passage having no exit; a cul-de-sac.
2. A situation that is so difficult that no progress can be made; a deadlock or a stalemate: reached an impasse in the negotiations. since December, Miller said.
On Aug. 12, the university gave the union its "last best offer," Miller said. The union responded with a counteroffer In contract law, a proposal made in response to an original offer modifying its terms, but which has the legal effect of rejecting it.
A counteroffer normally terminates the original offer, but the original offer remains open for acceptance if the counteroffer expressly on Oct. 3.
"The university initiated a meeting with the union on Oct. 8 and made some settlement suggestions, all of which were rejected by the union," Miller said.
To say that the union and the university are simply far apart on contract specifics would not accurately convey the tone of the negotiations, Congdon said.
"What it is is recalcitrance and immaturity im·ma·ture
1. Not fully grown or developed. See Synonyms at young.
2. Marked by or suggesting a lack of normal maturity: silly, immature behavior. and pushiness on the part of university management as opposed to specific economic issues," he said. "If you look at their last best offer, it is worse than their first offer a year ago."
Congdon said the university has said it is looking for a "management-friendly" contract.
"They basically want to have unchallenged decision-making authority," he said. Health-care proposals are one example, he said.
"Either they will increase their contribution by 13 percent over three years, when we both agree health-care costs are going to increase 45 percent over three years, or we can agree to let them make all future ... decisions about types of health insurance."
Congdon said the university has made several such proposals, including one that eliminates the grievance procedure A term used in Labor Law to describe an orderly, established way of dealing with problems between employers and employees.
Through the grievance procedure system, workers' complaints are usually communicated through their union to management for consideration by the employer. from the evaluation process.
"They are offers they know we cannot accept," he said.
Health-care and retirement costs are rising, Miller said, although he would not discuss specifics of the negotiations.
"It has never been the university's position to continue the negotiations in the press," he said. Several important issues remain on the table, Miller said. "That's why we will continue to negotiate in good faith."
At press time, the university was planning to give the union a final offer by the end of October and continue negotiations from there.
Congdon said the union hopes that the strike vote will encourage the university to work toward a contract, but he hopes to avoid an actual strike.
"We think a strike would be devastatingly terrible. Students would be hurt," Congdon said.