Andrew Harnik / Associated Pres                                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.

Andrew Harnik / Associated Pres 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.

State files lawsuit against public employee union

Fight over union dues escalates

Attorney General Kevin Clarkson filed a lawsuit Monday against the state’s largest public employee union, alleging state employees’ right to freedom of speech are being violated.

The suit was filed against the Alaska State Employees Association (ASEA) for refusing to stop deducting union dues from employee paychecks.

The lawsuit stems from a legal opinion issued by the Attorney General on Aug. 27, which said that the state was not in compliance with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Council 31, in 2018.

That decision found that because public sector unions engage in political activity such as lobbying and political advocacy that all members may not agree with, forcing members to pay union dues was equivalent to forcing those members to support speech against their wishes.

In the Aug. 27 opinion, Clarkson said that the state would have to receive “clear and compelling” evidence that public employees had consented to paying union fees and waived their rights to freedom of speech. The state’s current system of employees choosing to opt-out of union dues was not in compliance with the Supreme Court’s decision.

Following that opinion, several public sector employees approached the Department of Administration asking that union dues stop being taken from their paychecks, according to the state’s lawsuit.

However, when the union was notified that DOA would stop deducting union dues from employee paychecks, ASEA “objected and threatened litigation,” according to a press release from the Department of Law.

ASEA Executive Director Jake Metcalfe previously told the Empire that the state’s system for deducting union dues had been found legally sound under former Gov. Bill Walker and his attorney general Jahna Lindenmuth.

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

Speaking to the Empire by phone Monday, Metcalfe said that something like this was expected.

“We knew something was going to happen,” he said. Metcalfe said that ASEA will be filing its response quickly, which will begin the litigation process.

The administration of Gov. Mike Dunleavy is “doing anything they can to make it harder for people to join unions,” Metcalfe said, calling the administration’s tactics “bullying.”

“We know the law is on our side,” he said.

The lawsuit says that DOA sent Metcalfe an email on Sept. 9 notifying him that union dues would not be deducted from the individuals’ paychecks who had contacted the state. Metcalfe responded by saying, “if you do not immediately notify me that you have ceased and desisted the action described in your email, we will notify our attorney and initiate legal action,” the lawsuit says.

Though the Aug. 27 opinion said that the state would need, “clear and compelling evidence” that employees had agreed to union deductions, Clarkson told reporters at the time that DOA had not yet determined what that meant.

A statement released by the attorney general’s office Monday said that DOA was stopping deductions from employee paychecks at the advice of the Department of Law.

“By filing this lawsuit, the State is proactively seeking clarity from the court to ensure employees’ rights are fully protected,” the statement said.

The attorney general’s office could not be reached for comment by the end of business hours Monday.


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


More in News

Senator-elect Jesse Bjorkman, center, participates in a candidate forum Oct. 17, 2022, at the Soldotna Public Library. Bjorkman was elected in November to represent Alaska Senate District D on the Kenai Peninsula. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Bjorkman joins Senate majority caucus

He is one of 17 members of the bipartisan group

Camille Botello / Peninsula Clarion file
Junetta Delong browses the shelves at the Soldotna Library Friends’ book and art sale at the Soldotna Public Library on Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021.
Library sale transforms into seasonal celebration

Baked goods, books and art will all be on offer this Saturday at the Soldotna Public Library

A sign welcomes employees and visitors at the Kenai Peninsula Borough administration building on Tuesday, March 17, 2020, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
Cyber Monday sales taxes to boost local government budgets

The ability of taxing entities to collect sales tax from online, or e-commerce, sellers is a new phenomenon

A map shows tracts available as part of an upcoming state oil and gas lease sale in Cook Inlet. (Map via Alaska Department of Natural Resources/Division of Oil and Gas)
Feds set Cook Inlet oil and gas lease sale for Dec. 30

The sale comes as the State of Alaska prepares to hold its own lease sale, also in December

From right, Soldotna City Council members Linda Farnsworth-Hutchings, Dan Nelson and Jordan Chilson listen to testimony during a council meeting on Wednesday, July 13, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Council to mull limits on use of Soldotna ADUs as short-term rentals

Accessory dwelling units refer to subordinate, detached units

Alaska State Troopers logo.
Wildlife Troopers and CES rescue hunter missing for 12 hours

State troopers were notified around 6 p.m. Wednesday that the hunter hadn’t returned

The Alaska State Capitol awaits a legislators forming new majority coalitions and the return of Gov. Mike Dunleavy after the winners of the general election were announced Wednesday. The Senate will have a 17-member bipartisan ruling coalition, while the House arrangement remains uncertain due to at least one likely recount and questions about partisan alignments. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)
Bipartisan majority formed for new state Senate

Eight Republicans join nine Democrats after many years of Republican rule

Dr. Michael Reyes manipulates ROSA during a demonstration at Central Peninsula Hospital on Monday, Nov. 21, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Knee surgeries get assist from robot arms

Robotic Surgical Assistant, called ROSA, is a new addition to CPH and the first in Alaska

Most Read