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Alaska Files Lawsuit Against State Employee's Union

The Governor and Attorney General want to force union members to opt-in to their union

Brian Young's picture
Sep 17, 2019

Alaska has a surprisingly high number of union members, but Republicans in state government want to change that. As part of this effort, Republican Attorney General Kevin Clarkson and Governor Mike have filed a new lawsuit on behalf of some state workers that goes after public-sector unions ability to collect dues.

The lawsuit comes after a few state workers notified the Alaska State Employees Association (ASEA) that they would be dropping out of the union following the Janus decision. Clarkson saw this as an opportunity to challenge some state laws and practices in regard to unions. He hopes that the judges will take a more conservative viewpoint towards these practices and institute draconian changes to how a member joins the union and how they pay their dues.

Clarkson is arguing in the case that thanks to the Janus decision, unions must meet a much higher threshold before they can deduct dues from a member. He is arguing that members shouldn’t have to opt out of the union, but rather opt-in. This argument was laid out in a memo Clarkson sent to the Governor a few weeks ago. He also argued in the memo that members should have to renew their support for the union every year.

This is a much more extreme argument than the Supreme Court made in the Janus case.  “The effect is that it makes it harder for employees to have union representation, it makes it harder for unions to represent the employees,” said Jake Metcalfe, Executive Director for Alaska State Employees Association Local 52 in Anchorage. “The Janus decision solely involves non-union members, plain and simple, and ASEA has worked diligently to comply with the new law. In contrast, Governor Dunleavy’s actions violates the Supreme Court decision and turns a blind eye to the contract he signed with us. Dunleavy is interfering with his employees’ contractual rights, violating their First Amendment rights and attempting to take all power away from them. This is ‘big brother’ government at its worst. His actions are shameful.”

This decision by Clarkson and Governor Dunleavy isn’t a new idea. Republicans in a number of states have pushed through bills to make joining a union, staying in a union, and funding the local union harder. “It is plainly evident that the Clarkson memo and Governor Dunleavy’s lawsuit are all part of a larger attack on workers’ rights, orchestrated by Americans for Prosperity and the Alaska Policy Forum – secretive groups funded through the Koch Brothers’ network,” said Vince Beltrami, President of the Alaska AFL-CIO. “We will continue our fight to protect workers’ rights to ensure they have a collective voice in the workplace.”

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