Governor Dunleavy announces executive order regarding union employee dues

Employees will have to affirmatively ‘opt in’

Gov. Mike Dunleavy issued an administrative order Thursday afternoon saying that all public sector union employees will have to affirmatively “opt-in” if they want to remain in the union.

The Department of Administration will be setting up a system, both online and in person, where union members will have to regularly affirm they want to remain members union.

The governor made the announcement in an Anchorage press conference with reporters Thursday. Attorney General Kevin Clarkson and Commissioner Kelly Tshibaka were present as well.

It’s not clear at this time how often union members will have to opt-in but it was mostly likely to be at least annually, Clarkson told reporters.

The order comes following an opinion issued by Clarkson in August, which said that the state was not in compliance with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 ruling in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Council 31.

That decision said that because unions often engaged in political activity its members may not agree with, forcing non-union members to pay dues was a violation of their freedom of speech.

Non-union employees had previously been forced to pay union dues because their contracts had been negotiated by the union and they received other union benefits.

Clarkson said that the Supreme Court’s decision said “clear and compelling evidence” must be given that employees want union dues taken out of their paychecks and that the current system for opting in didn’t provide that.

“The state has to be involved in the process,” Clarkson told reporters Thursday. “The state is not allowed to presume union membership.”

The opt-in process would have to take place regularly, Clarkson said, because, “waivers become stale as circumstances change.”

It’s not clear how this decision will affect the state’s current contract with public sector unions. Tshibaka told reporters that about 12,000 state employees were members of a union.

“A contract that is unconstitutional is no contract at all,” Clarkson said.

But union officials have pointed out the Janus decision applies to non-union members who were previously made to pay union dues.

Non-union employees stopped having their paychecks deducted under the Walker administration, Alaska State Employee Association Executive Director Jake Metcalfe previously told the Empire.

Union officials have told the Empire that employees who are members of the union have already consented to the deductions because they are members of the union.

“This is a radical extremist view,” Metcalfe told the Empire in a phone interview Thursday. Metcalfe said that no other state had tried to interpret Janus to include union members. “There’s no support for this position. The governor is trying to interfere with our members’ constitutional rights to organize.”

Metcalfe said that ASEA representatives will be meeting with state lawyers before a judge Friday morning. The union will request a temporary restraining order which would halt the administrative order from being implemented.

On Sept. 16, the state filed a lawsuit against Alaska’s largest public sector union, the Alaska State Employees Association (ASEA). The union had threatened legal action if DOA stopped deducting union dues from certain employees paychecks.

Following Clarkson’s decision, several state employees approached DOA asking that dues stop being deducted from their paychecks, the state’s lawsuit said.

When the state notified the union it would cease union deductions for those employees, the union threatened legal action, which in turn prompted the state to sue the union, according to the lawsuit.

“This is a violation of the constitution, a violation of the contract that the governor signed a little more than a month ago. Based on our contract, we do not believe that this change will take place,” Metcalfe told the Empire.

The attorney general’s office did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.

More in News

COVID-19. (Image courtesy the CDC)
49 new COVID-19 cases reported

Seven of the new resident cases reported Thursday were identified on the Kenai Peninsula.

Skylar Giordano cuts Ryan Huerta’s hair at RD’s Barber Shop in Kenai, Alaska on Thursday, July 9, 2020. RD’s is one of the 186 local businesses and nonprofits in Kenai that already received financial assistance through the City of Kenai’s Grant Program. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai boosts local economy with grants

The city has distributed $1.9 million in grants to 186 businesses and nonprofits.

Hospital adds new COVID-19 rooms

The hospital has made several changes or modifications to its facilities.

Salmon Run Series returns

Running races now feature masks, pods and elbow taps

A Homer Volunteer Fire Department emergency medical technician, left, assists a person who was involved in a boat capsizing, center, as they walk up the load-launch ramp on Wednesday, July 8, 2020, at the Homer Harbor in Homer, Alaska. The crew of the F/V Captain Cook helped rescue the person. The crew of the F/V Casino rescued the other two people who were aboard the 14-foot skiff when it capsized near the entrance of China Poot Bay. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
1 dead, 2 rescued after boat capsizes near China Poot Bay

A 14-foot skiff carrying three people overturned near Gull Island in the mouth of China Poot Bay.

The Kenai River and Skilak Lake are seen from the Hideout Trail in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge on Sunday, July 5, 2020, on the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Public comment open on proposed refuge changes

State could get more power over regulation refuge

COVID-19. (Image CDC)
10 new COVID-19 cases on the Kenai Peninsula

Statewide, 49 new cases in total were identified: 40 resident cases and nine nonresident cases.

The entrance to the Kenai Peninsula Borough building in Soldotna is seen here on June 1. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)
Assembly overrides veto of hybrid election system

Members of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly voted to override a mayoral… Continue reading

Parker Rose and Kendra Rose, members of the Sterling Horse and Livestock 4-H Club, are seen here with their miniature donkey on April 23, 2020. (Photo courtesy Cassy Rankin/Kenai Peninsula District 4-H)
Keeping cows and carrying on

4-H looks for alternative ways to host animal auction

Most Read