State retains Trump lawyers in lawsuit aimed at union dues

State retains Trump lawyers in lawsuit aimed at union dues

Union officials speculate Clarkson intends to go to Supreme Court

The state of Alaska has hired the same firm used by President Donald Trump for a lawsuit filed Monday against a state employee union.

Cosovoy McCarthy PLLC, based in Arlington, Va., is the firm currently representing the president in his effort to shield his New York state tax returns from Congress.

The firm he hired to aid in that effort is the same firm chosen by Alaska Attorney General Kevin Clarkson to represent the state in its case against the Alaska State Employees Association.

The lawsuit seeks to stop the practice of automatically deducting union dues from union members’ paychecks.

“Cosovoy McCarthy is a firm with considerable litigation experience and regularly represents state governments, including before the Supreme Court,” said Alaska’s senior assistant attorney general, Cori Mills.

Mills refused to speculate on whether Clarkson intended to take the case to the Supreme Court.

But union representatives emphatically believe that going to the Supreme Court is in fact the goal of Clarkson and Gov. Mike Dunleavy.

“I don’t see how to come to any other conclusion,” said Joelle Hall, director of operations for the Alaska AFL-CIO. Clarkson’s opinion is “so out of line with the current ruling” that the case would necessarily have to go beyond Alaska courts, she said.

Hall and other union representatives maintain that Clarkson’s interpretation of the ruling in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Council 31 is far beyond what the Supreme Court intended.

That decision says that non-union members will not have to pay fees to labor unions even if they’re under a union-negotiated contract.

Under the decision, non-members must choose to opt in to union fees rather then having those funds automatically deducted by the union.

Clarkson argues that the same opt-in process applies to union members as well. His opinion from Aug. 27 says, “the principle of the Court’s ruling, however, goes well beyond agency fees and non-members.”

That opinion said that the state would set up a system which would confirm that union members were actively giving affirmative consent that union dues be taken from their paychecks.

But union officials argue that members have given affirmative consent by virtue of the fact they are members of the union.

“The attorney general wants to apply this opt-in rule to the people that have already opted in,” Hall said. “He wants those people to affirmatively opt in. Janus doesn’t require any jurisdiction to that.”

In a press release following the announcement of Monday’s lawsuit, ASEA said, “14 states including Alaska had the same basic understanding of the decision and had implemented the changes.”

ASEA has accused the governor’s administration of attacking workers rights and view this lawsuit as part of that effort.

ASEA represents roughly 6,000 Alaskan workers.


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


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