Art Chance: Sometimes I hate to be right

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By ART CHANCE

In 2018 the US Supreme Court handed down its decision in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO, hereinafter referred to as Janus or Janus v. AFSCME.

At its essence Janus struck down compulsory union dues for public employees as unconstitutional. Unions went into a fit of apoplexy, which could easily have been expected.   Less expected, unless you were some cynical government type like me, was the sight of Republican elected officials shaking in their shoes over the announcement.

The Unions were ready for Janus. A previous case on the same grounds had resulted in a 4-4 decision due to the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. The unions and the Left saw the handwriting on the wall and began to prepare for public employment in the US to become essentially open shop or “right to work.”

In the “blue” unionized states, the unions had willing accomplices in modifying collective bargaining agreements to impose draconian barriers to employees trying to withdraw from union membership. Union stooge Bill Walker was still Alaska’s governor when Janus was handed down and he and the unions quickly reached agreements to protect union prerogatives and keep as many employees as union chattel as possible. 

I don’t know if they’re still doing it, but for months after Janus was handed down, State human resources people were telling new employees they had to go down to the union hall and sign up to pay dues.

The ”red” states have been more problematic. Over the last couple of decades feckless Republicans have allowed collective bargaining and unionization for police, fire, and teachers in many jurisdictions, even though they have no legal right to bargaining. 

But they do have a right to make political contributions and the feckless Republicans can’t pull their hands back. Just look at how the so-called Republicans in the Alaska Legislature behaved and voted last Session and then go look at who they took money from.

When Janus was handed down most any experienced labor relations practitioner would have known what to do. The people I left behind when I retired would have known what to do. Since it was the union-owned Walker Administration obviously nobody asked them or listened to them. All it would have taken was a letter to each union telling them that the U.S. Supreme Court had rendered their union security clauses unconstitutional and that the State would no longer enforce them. You’d offer a polite invitation to them to come bargain the effects.

Instead, the Walker Administration jumped to their masters’ order and entered bargaining with the unions to secure nice safe contracts to get them past the next election and to keep their mandatory dues schemes intact. The union-Walker junta came apart and Mike Dunleavy became governor. There was a chance to get something right.

I met with Dunleavy’s new attorney general in 2019. He’d been in office a month or so, which is long enough to master the org chart, the directory of state officials, and have some clue what your job is. I’ve worked with and for and supervised a fair number of lawyers and admittedly you wondered who dressed some of them for work, but somehow they’d passed the bar exam. I assure you that a bar ticket is not a certification that the holder has any sense. I left that meeting convinced that that attorney general, now long gone, was an idiot. Nothing since has changed my mind. If you’re a cabinet officer. or even a range 20, you don’t compromise your career and your marriage by playing with the front desk clerk.

I wrote a column here in September of 2019, titled, “Which Way is the Courthouse” or some such. 

My proposition was that the Janus case was a federal question that needed to go to the federal courts, yet the Alaska Department of Law had filed in State court.   

Now I’m just a country boy from Georgia who happens to know a bit about labor relations and I know that nothing in the Alaska Public Employment Relations Act offends the Alaska Constitution, but after Janus, a good bit of it offended the US Constitution.

Last week the Alaska Supreme Court handed down its decision and, funny thing, it reads a lot like my column from a couple of years ago: Compulsory dues are just fine under Alaska law; it’s just that Alaska law violates the U.S. Constitution.

The attorney general had a bunch or Range 24 and 25 assistant AGs working for him, one of which I hired. If one of my Range 18 or 20 entry-level Labor Relations Analysts had brought me the legal analysis that led to that appeal to the State courts, at minimum their career indicator light would have been flashing and it might have been worse. Whomever thought that up for the Department of Law was either an idiot or a crook.

So, now the State has lost in the State courts and it would take a whole new start through the federal courts. The State would be unlikely to win in the Alaska District or in the Ninth Circuit, so a resolution is several years and several million dollars away.

Meanwhile, Gov. Dunleavy and his friends are at peace with the unions, sending our dividends to their friends, and dreaming of carbon credits and the State living off Permanent Fund earnings.   

It isn’t a coincidence that he appointed Alice Rogoff-David Rubenstein’s daughter to the Permanent Fund Board. Maybe Dunleavy can go to the U.S. Senate while his trust fund baby buddies set the table here in Alaska.

Art Chance is a retired Director of Labor Relations for the State of Alaska, formerly of Juneau and now living in Anchorage. He is the author of the book, “Red on Blue, Establishing a Republican Governance,” available at Amazon.

32 COMMENTS

  1. Buddy, Georgia is calling … and needs you back! You blatantly (and unapologetically) voted for Dunleavy and now complain like a whetted doe. C’mon!

    • Amuse me. Take issue with the points he made (if you can) instead of playing your one hit wonder of snark.

      Make a cogent point. Any will do.

      • Make a cogent point, eh? Take note of where you are, Avenger. Once you get this place marshaled, you’ll be ready to take on Twitter! A cogent point, eh? The “whetted doe” allusion says it nicely!

    • I voted for Dunleavy because he didn’t appear to be a communist. I’m questioning my conclusion.

  2. I never paid dues nor was I pressured to pay this. I wasn’t even pressured to join a union. The unions are all the scam anyway. If you’re not a member, you get the same benefits of those that were a member. I don’t know why anybody would want to join a union unless it was just to become a member of the club and feel more significant. Maybe get to vote on Union things.

    • Greg, it’s called Organized Labor for a reason not in your best interest but the Unions organizers in control of your wages…. What do you not understand about that! No pressure dude! It’s totally obvious the “Teachers Union ” ruled in the Legislature this years spending our money with the Governors Lead!

  3. Dunleavy is the most disappointing governor in my lifetime. State history IMO.

    After Walker, there was a brief moment where he could, if the Cowardly Lion had courage, have potentially made an actual difference.

    But alone came Wasilla and he was exposed for the empty suit he was. Feckless, spineless, and surrounded by feckless, spineless idiots (see Tuckerman Babcock, Ben Stevens, Anne Zink, etc).

    There are times a person must fight the good fight, even if the odds are long. Often by doing so you win even if you lose.

    But in Wasilla Cathy Giessel took his measure, his manhood, and effectively his governorship away from him brutally. He became the tallest small man in politics.

    Since then this milk toast of a politician has been a moderately effective Democrat governor.

    The costs of his capitulation are staggering and ongoing. A purple state went solidly blue. The legislature became more lawless than ever. Places like Anchorage felt comfortable openly operating against state and federal law during Covid and since because they knew the only real obstacle to their fascism was a paper tiger.

    Often when I think of Dunleavy I’m reminded of the classic movie The Cain Mutiny. Humphrey Bogart is a Naval Captain promoted beyond his natural capabilities. He earned the nickname “Old Yellowstain” through perceived cowardice in combat. He entered a battle, dropped a yellow die marker, and ran. Just like Wasilla.

    The legacy of this man’s failure to stand when he needed to, results be damned, will haunt us for generations.

    What could have been vs what we became.

    • With such a lengthy critique, Avenger, you must be completely winded! We know that you’ll go back for more during the next election for no reason other than to treat us to yet more of your thoughtful commentary.

      Look, I realize that it doesn’t take but one beer too many to get a man moaning and groaning and belching gas! Take a break: come up for a little air and relax a bit before we start losing daylight!

      • I love living in your head rent free. There’s so much room and it’s hardly been used at all.

        Sad little man.

        • Don’t fret over the small stuff, Avenger. The living space that you take up is insignificant and costs little; if it will make you feel as being one of the godly poor, though, consider it charity, that is, a mere handout!

  4. The Governor did well in ranked choice voting, which was implemented to protect Murkowski and hold Alaska as a pathocracy. Voting these puppets out of office is not an option. In the outside chance an honest person were to become Governor, the entrenched state unions would simply ignore, obstruct and prevail in maintaing absolute power.

  5. Art, you are spot on with the “Organized Labor” controlled State of the State here in Alaska !
    So our state owns & controls our resources & we are dominated by union labors following in lock step with the “One World Order” control of all social interactions of the public & their narrative propaganda. Carbon Credits totally destroys our state sovereign government supposedly by the “people for the people” and hands it over to globalist’s corporatize rulers. The legislature following the Governors lead & sold us out to the highest bidder!
    What to do, Art?

  6. When I worked for a school district and didn’t automatically join the union they tried to hire someone for the job I already had, harassed me and constantly reminded me they could try and force me to work overtime without pay, work around the clock and only get eight hours pay and so forth because I wasn’t union. That the state openly defies the Supreme court, not a surprise, just add it to the list of illegal and fraudulent things they do. Hey, who has reported they committed fraud by issuing automatic refusals for unemployment for years and admitted to the fraud. Guess it was okay cause, they claimed if they hadn’t committed fraud for years they wouldn’t have had that big pot of money when covid hit.
    Dunleavy destroyed the rule of law when he suspended all laws and codes during covid. Basically nullifying the state constitution under the premise he can do anything he wants and if he breaks an already established law it is thereby suspended. Break a law, means it is nullified. Works for the state of Alaska, but weirdly not for the people, even when the state constitution says,We the People of the State of Alaska.

  7. C’mon Art … Elle is a nice addition to the PFD Board. She brings much needed energy, a young face (perspective) and exposure to potential financiers that could play an important role in developing Alaska, beyond the park status we’re heading currently heading for. Whom else would you have selected for that role, give us a Top-3 (if you can)? Hopefully, the Top-3 you pick are local, that the State of AK wouldn’t have to ‘import’ from afar, buying them a +$1MM house and relocation expenses (take note … she’s already here and bought her own house, all at her own expense!).

  8. Art … re: the AG, why not reach out to Geraghty and/or Burns (past AG’s that were phenomenal for Alaska), and convince them to return to service?and/Or, help guide and mentor the current AG?

  9. With the current shortage of skilled labor not only in the private abut also in the public sector, and we all know the unions have the best training programs, I would NOT be picking a fight with the unions!!

    • We don’t “all know the unions have the best training programs.” The have good training programs in some industries where they have monopoly employers organized. We don’t have a serious shortage of skilled labor in this country; we have a surplus of slugs and stoners.

      The only labor the State gets directly from unions are the Labor, Trades, and Crafts guys and some Marine Highway employees. The State can recruit either directly if the unions can’t provide the labor. Due primarily to shipping disruptions during the Scamdemic there is a shortage of maritime employees and especially US citizens with licensure. With the LTC guys you deal with a portable workforce in the skilled trades and they go where the most work and money is; that place hasn’t been Alaska in some years.

    • John your assessment about training may not be true. I am A retired Operator (302) worked the TAPS Project when I was 19 and now Training Equipment Operators on the Kenai. Have been for now three years . My Son has a CDL training facility in Sterling , Ak & has trained over 800 CDL drivers. What do you know! Come check us out you might learn something….

      • Operating Engineers was run by a bunch of crooks and thieves, especially during the pipeline years and 80’s and 90’s. Dispatchers and agents shoved big bills in their pockets through the back door. Hope it runs better now with you onboard, Ed.

        • Retied from the union and in agreement with the unions activity’s during the pipeline days! Currently not affiliated in the Training I advise that my Son does on the Peninsula. Check him out @ Alaska Driving Academy Soldotna, Ak

  10. The Governor did well in ranked choice voting, which was implemented to protect Murkowski and hold Alaska as a pathocracy. Voting these puppets out of office is not an option. In the outside chance an honest person were to become Governor, the entrenched state unions would simply ignore, obstruct and prevail in maintaining absolute power.

  11. A lot of you knock Dunleavy but what is our alternative? We could have a Gavin Newsom or a Jay Inslee. I’ll take Dunleavy thank you. As for union hating, you might just want to rethink those that support our emergency services and law enforcement. We’ve all witnessed the wonders of Defund the Police and if our prison personnel dwindle, what do we do? If you have problems with specific unions, name them out individually.

    • IBEW OWNS the electrical power generation in the rail belt, the police union in now way guarantees good policing. Unions are just methods to pay thousands of people that never touch a tool, paid for on the backs of the employer and the union member.

  12. There are several problems in Alaska. One of which is that there are no term limits in the legislature. This allows people in the legislature to acquire and keep and even grow their power for decades. Contrast that with the term limits for the governor and Lt. governor. Even though Giessel was thrown out in 2018 she was back this year with no diminution of power. In the finance world, nothing gets done without the sanction of Bert Stedman. These are just two of the real political power forces in Alaska politics. No governor has that kind of power. And except for 4 governors, most only get one term before vacating for the next newbie. So between the lack of gubernatorial experience and the actual power residing in the legislature and the courts, the system is a mismatch, not a triad. Most governors see this within a short time and have to settle for what they might be able to actually get done. I am actually surprised that any governor seeks to get re-elected when he/she only gets pummeled by both the nonsupporting public and the power-hungry legislators. I don’t hold Dunleavy responsible more than the public that would not support him in any of the times he asked for it. It is far too easy to sit on your hands and send someone out to do the battle in which you should all be involved. Carpe Diem!

  13. Union bosses are the biggest crooks on the planet. They don’t just organize members, they organize crime. It’s been going on for over 70 years. LMRDA needs a major overhaul, but our Congress won’t do it because their bosses are the union bosses.
    Welcome back to MRAK, Art. We’ve missed ya.

    • Been doing a little “medical tourism;” getting old isn’t for sissies. Thank you for the kind words.

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