Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner gives a thumbs up outside the Supreme Court, Wednesday, June 27, 2018 in Washington. From left are, Liberty Justice Center’s Director of Litigation Jacob Huebert, plaintiff Mark Janus, Rauner, and Liberty Justice Center founder and chairman John Tillman. The Supreme Court ruled that government workers can’t be forced to contribute to labor unions that represent them in collective bargaining, dealing a serious financial blow to organized labor. (AP Photo | Andrew Harnik)

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner gives a thumbs up outside the Supreme Court, Wednesday, June 27, 2018 in Washington. From left are, Liberty Justice Center’s Director of Litigation Jacob Huebert, plaintiff Mark Janus, Rauner, and Liberty Justice Center founder and chairman John Tillman. The Supreme Court ruled that government workers can’t be forced to contribute to labor unions that represent them in collective bargaining, dealing a serious financial blow to organized labor. (AP Photo | Andrew Harnik)

‘We’re going to fight them all the way’: Alaska union plans to fight legal ruling over dues

The attorney general is calling for stricter rules for union dues.

The State of Alaska is not in compliance with the U.S. Supreme Court regarding state employee payments toward unions, according to an opinion released by Alaska Attorney General Kevin Clarkson Tuesday.

But union leaders see the ruling as another attempt to undermine collective bargaining power.

The opinion is “just another attempt by the Dunleavy administration to stifle workers’ constitutional rights on the job,” Jake Metcalf, executive director of the Alaska State Employees Association (ASEA), told the Empire by phone Tuesday.

Clarkson’s opinion states that the current process whereby a State of Alaska employee must choose to opt-out of union dues or fees is a violation of free speech, citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Council 31. That 2018 decision says because unions engage in political activity employees might not agree with, making non-union employees contribute to unions either through dues or agency fees violated their right to free speech.

The state’s current “opt-out” violates the First Amendment under the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Janus, Clarkson said, because it automatically includes union deductions for public employees. Employees must instead choose to “opt-in” to union contributions, Clarkson’s opinion states. Furthermore, sufficient evidence that “those consents are knowing, intelligent, and freely given,” must be provided to the state and updated regularly, the ruling said.

“Forcing State employees through state law to pay union dues that will be used for political purposes and speech they may not agree with has created an unconstitutional restriction of free speech,” Clarkson said in a press release.

“The nation’s highest court has ruled repeatedly that freedom of speech also means the right to refrain from speaking at all,” Clarkson said in a statement. “In order to comply with the highest court’s ruling and the U.S. Constitution, the State has to determine that an employee must have freely and knowingly consented to have dues deducted from their paychecks.”

Opponents to Janus have said that because public employees still benefit from union-negotiated contracts, they should contribute to the union’s efforts. Rather than protecting free speech, critics say Janus decision and other “right-to-work” laws are meant to undermine union’s collective bargaining power.

According to Clarkson’s opinion, the state will need to change its payroll process by obtaining “clear and compelling evidence” that the employee has chosen to contribute to the union and has waived their right to free speech, according to a press release. What “clear and compelling evidence” looks like, has not yet been defined and will be determined by the Department of Administration, Clarkson told reporters.

Clarkson issued his opinion in response to a request from Gov. Mike Dunleavy regarding the state’s compliance with the Janus decision.

Legally sound?

Metcalf said that the current system of deductions had been found to be legal under the administration of Gov. Bill Walker and former attorney general Jahna Lindenmuth.

“We think that Walker’s opinion is the legally sound opinion,” Metcalf said. “If they want to do this, I guess they will, but we’re going to fight them all the way.”

However, Clarkson said in his opinion that Walker’s administration didn’t go far enough in its compliance with Janus.

Under the current system the process of obtaining consent from employees is managed by the union.

“By ceding to the unions themselves the process of eliciting public employee’s consent,” Clarkson’s opinion said, “the State has no way of ascertaining that those consents are knowing, intelligent, and voluntary.”

This fails, in Clarkson’s opinion, to meet the standards of obtaining “clear and compelling evidence,” of consent as dictated by Janus.

A representative from the Alaska division of the AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest union organization, declined to comment on the Attorney General’s decision pending consultation with their lawyers.

According to Nadine Lefebre, President of the Juneau Central Labor Council and a member of ASEA, said that there are roughly 1,500 ASEA members in Juneau.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 20 percent of Alaska’s 304,000 employed people are represented by a union, one of the highest percentages in the country.


• Contact reporter Peter Segall at 523-2228 or psegall@juneauempire.com.


More in News

The Aurora Borealis glows over the Mendenhall Glacier in 2014. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Aurora forecast

Forecasts from the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute for the week of Jan. 22

David Holmes digs through a pile of boardgames during Platypus Gaming’s two-day mini-con over the weekend at Douglas Public Library and Sunday at Mendenhall Public Library. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire)
Good times keep rolling with Platypus Gaming

Two-day mini-con held at Juneau Public Library.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Juneau man indicted on child pornography charges

A Juneau man was indicted Thursday on charges of possessing or accessing… Continue reading

Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire 
Juneau’s municipal and state legislative members, their staff, and city lobbyists gather in the Assembly chambers Thursday meeting for an overview of how the Alaska State Legislature and politicians in Washington, D.C., are affecting local issues.
Local leaders, lawmakers and lobbyists discuss political plans for coming year

Morning meeting looks at local impact of state, national political climates.

This photo shows pills police say were seized after a suspicious package was searched. (Juneau Police Department)
Police: 1,000 fentanyl pills, 86 grams of meth seized

Juneau man arrested on felony charges.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Friday, Jan. 27, 2023

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Captain Anne Wilcock recieves the Emery Valentine Leadership Award at the 2022 CCFR awards banquet on Saturday, Jan. 14. (Courtesy Photo / CCFR)
CCFR honors responders during annual banquet

Capital City Fire/Rescue hosted its 2022 awards banquet earlier this month as… Continue reading

A resident and his dog walk past the taped off portion of the Basin Road Trestle after it suffered damaged from a rockslide earlier this week. The trestle is open to pedestrians, but will remain closed to vehicular traffic until structural repairs are made, according to city officials. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)
Rocky road: Basin Road Trestle open to pedestrians, remains closed to vehicles

City officials say repairs are currently being assessed after damaging rockfall

Most Read