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

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, yellow, emerging from the surface of cells, blue/pink, cultured in the lab. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, NIAID-RML
COVID at a glance for Friday, Oct. 15

The most recent state and local figures

Tone and Charles Deehr in Fairbanks, October 2021. Both photos courtesy Charles Deehr. 3. (Courtesy Photo / Charles Deehr)
Alaska Science Forum: Red aurora rare enough to be special

In decades of sky-watching in the north, he has seen a few red auroras, but not many.

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, yellow, emerging from the surface of cells, blue/pink, cultured in the lab. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, NIAID-RML
COVID at a glance for Thursday, Oct. 14

The most recent state and local figures

It's a police car until you look closely and see the details don't quite match. (Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Friday, Oct. 15, 2021

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

The Juneau Police Department will hold a drug take-back day on Oct. 23, 2021 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., said the police in a news release. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire File)
Police to hold drug take-back day on Oct. 23

Last take-back event, the DEA collected 420 tons of unused or unwanted prescription medication.

Then-Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho, left, and former Juneau Representative Bill Hudson, right, speak with John Torgerson, chairman of the Alaska Redistricting Board during a break in hearing public testimony at the Capitol Wednesday, April 20, 2011.  Alaska’s state flags were lowered Thursday for longtime Alaska lawmaker, Hudson, who died Oct. 11. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
‘A large legacy’: Hudson remembered for dedication to Juneau and the state

Alaska’s state flags were lowered Thursday for longtime Alaska lawmaker Bill Hudson.

The author photographs one of the numerous bull moose he and his wife saw on an elk hunt in Wyoming. (Jeff Lund / For the Juneau Empire)
I Went to the Woods: Desired vs. realized success

No elk taken, but it’s nothing to grouse about.

It's a police car until you look closely and see the details don't quite match. (Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021

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

This photo shows gray currents, also called stink currants, Vivian Mork photographer. (Vivian Mork Yeilk’ / For the Capital City Weekly)
Planet Alaska: Picking currants and riding currents

We give respect and thanks to the berries and the birds as we harvest the last of the berries.

Most Read