Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File                                 Gov. Mike Dunleavy (left) listens to Attorney General Kevin Clarkson during a press conference at the Capitol on Jan. 30.

Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File Gov. Mike Dunleavy (left) listens to Attorney General Kevin Clarkson during a press conference at the Capitol on Jan. 30.

State pays back $50,000 over Alaska Hire lawsuit

State agrees to refund fines collected for violations of the law

The State of Alaska has agreed to pay $50,000 to a company that sued over the state’s Alaska Hire law, according to an agreement signed by the state earlier this month.

Following a review of the law prompted by the lawsuit, Attorney General Kevin Clarkson issued an opinion on Oct. 3 saying the law was unconstitutional.

The suit was filed in July by construction firm Colaska, the state subsidiary of Colas UAS, and was being represented by former Alaska Attorney General Michael Geraghty.

Alaska Hire had said companies must give preferential treatment to Alaska residents under certain circumstances when hiring for state projects.

“There was no way for the statute to survive a constitutional challenge,” Clarkson said at a press conference in October. Gov. Mike Dunleavy had decided not to spend limited state resources fighting a losing battle, Clarkson said at the time.

The $50,000 is a repayment of the fines Colaska incurred for violating the Alaska Hire statute, and each side will pay its own legal fees resulting from the litigation, the court documents say. The agreement was signed on Nov. 8.

Colas USA’s parent company, SECON, will cease all litigation against the state in return for the state repaying the fines and ceasing enforcement of the law, according to the settlement agreement and mutual release contract made public.

State Democrats and labor groups criticized the opinion at the time, saying the governor had shown a pattern of attacking workers rights.

“I’m just blown away that a law that has received such broad support for so long is just being abandoned by this governor,” Rep. Zack Fields, D-Anchorage, said at the time.

Alaska Hire only applied in certain circumstances and was narrowly tailored in such a way as to not violate the U.S. or state constitutions.

“They found a way in the Cooper administration to pass constitutional muster and every administration has done so for 33 years,” Joelle Hall, director of operations of the Alaska AFL-CIO, previously told the Empire.

Fields cited a case out of New Jersey where the U.S. Supreme Court had upheld preferential hiring laws.

The law only applied in previously identified “zones of underemployment” identified by the commissioner of labor and workforce development. Additionally, according the law, areas subject to Alaska Hire must fulfill a number of requirements, including having unemployment higher than the national average.

Clarkson and Dunleavy maintained they supported the goals of Alaska Hire, but said the law itself was, “clearly unconstitutional.” Clarkson said he was not the first attorney general to question the constitutionality of Alaska Hire.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Alaska has the highest rate of unemployment of all 50 states at 6.2%. The next highest state is Mississippi at 5.5%.


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


More in News

Alaska State Troopers logo.
Soldotna man dead after Nikiski collision

The Kenai Spur Highway was closed for around four hours.

Copies of the Peninsula Clarion are photographed on Friday, June 21, 2024. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)
Announcing a new Peninsula Clarion print schedule

Our last Wednesday edition will be delivered June 26.

A bucket of recently caught sockeye salmon rests on the sand while anglers seek to fill it further at the mouth of the Kasilof River on Monday, June 26, 2023, in Kasilof, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Dipnetting in Kasilof opens Tuesday

Dipnetting will be allowed at all times until Aug. 7

The Kasilof River is seen from the Kasilof River Recreation Area, July 30, 2019, in Kasilof, Alaska. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)
Fish and Game restricts bait on Kasilof, Ninilchik Rivers

The use of bait on the rivers will begin Friday and extend to July 15 in Ninilchik, July 31 in Kasilof

A man fishes in the Kenai River on July 16, 2018, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Peninsula Clarion/file)
Slow sockeye fishing on Kenai, Russian Rivers

Northern Kenai Fishing Report for June 20

Alaska Department of Fish and Game logo. (Graphic by Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Bag limits doubled for sockeye salmon in Resurrection Bay

The increase is effective from June 21 to July 31

Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion
Girl Scout Troop 210, which includes Caitlyn Eskelin, Emma Hindman, Kadie Newkirk and Lyberty Stockman, present their “Bucket Trees” to a panel of judges in the 34th Annual Caring for the Kenai Competition at Kenai Central High School on Thursday, April 18.
Caring for the Kenai winners receive EPA award

Winning team of the 34th annual Caring for the Kenai was selected for the President’s Environmental Youth Award

Most Read