Breaking: Attorney General says State putting guardrails on collecting union dues - Must Read Alaska
Connect with:
Monday, October 14, 2019
HomePoliticsBreaking: Attorney General says State putting guardrails on collecting union dues

Breaking: Attorney General says State putting guardrails on collecting union dues

JANUS DECISION INTERPRETED TO PROTECT FREE SPEECH

Today Attorney General Kevin Clarkson released a formal opinion on the State of Alaska’s compliance with the United States Supreme Court decision in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Council 31.

The opinion finds that the State must take significant additional steps to protect the First Amendment rights to free speech for State employees, and in the future will need to conduct periodic checks to ensure that state workers covered by union contracts still want to pay those dues via paycheck deductions.

Since Gov. Michael Dunleavy took office, the State of Alaska no longer collects agency fees for public employee unions, but this ruling applies to the dues themselves that the State collects on behalf of unions.

Freedom of speech is “a fixed star in our constitutional constellation,” Clarkson said today.

The “Janus decision” was a lawsuit filed by a public employee named Mark Janus of Illinois, who refused to join the union because he disagreed with many of the union’s political activities and its bargaining.

Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31, No. 16-1466, 585 U.S. ___ limited the power of labor unions to collect fees from non-union members because of the infringement on the First Amendment rights of public employees regarding their freedom of association.

“Forcing State employees through state law to pay union dues that will be used for political purposes and speech they may not agree with has created an unconstitutional restriction of free speech,” said Clarkson today. “The nation’s highest court has ruled repeatedly that freedom of speech also means the right to refrain from speaking at all. In order to comply with the highest court’s ruling and the U.S. Constitution, the State has to determine that an employee must have freely and knowingly consented to have dues deducted from their paychecks.”

[Read the Janus decision here.]

Clarkson said the State must maintain control of the “opt-in” process, rather than allow unions to control it from their end.

“It’s important for employees be able to opt in from time to time … with knowing and voluntary choice based on whatever extemporaneous circumstances are,” he said, adding that unions change their political positions from time to time and that workers may decide they disagree with those positions and with the union activity surrounding them.

Gov. Dunleavy said in a statement that since the State of Alaska is not in compliance with Janus, in the coming days and weeks the Administration will be working to make sure the state is in compliance. That action will likely involve how new and existing State employees opt in or out of union dues freely.

Donations Welcome

Share

Written by

Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • When they are applying show them two paychecks one full check and one with dues taken out

    • Show them 2 contracts one negotiated with the union in place, and one without the union. I’m sticking with the union!

    • It’s called math. It’s right over with the rest of the deductions. I mean State worker are stupid but c’mon.

    • Show them two paychecks. One with union negotiated wages and benefits and one with minimum wage and no benefits.

      • Not necessarily Edwin. I worked an exempt position before becoming a SAHM. I never expected to make so much at any time in life. With exempt positions, there’s the understanding that more is expected of you as an at-will employee. So you are paid well.

  • That’s great, now extend that to Alaskan municipalities and school districts.

    • It applies to them as well. All you have to do is get union owned school boards and municipal/city assemblies to comply with it.

  • A welcome departure from Governor Walker’s effort to support the unions in spite of the Janus ruling.

  • There could be an argument made for some positions but for the most part, government jobs should not be unionized.

    • Unions are great.

      Look at how the ferry union got their employees to strike (lost wages) and then got them a worse contract than they’d have gotten 2 or 3 years ago.

      More winning folks!

      • But they did get free coffee in their contract!!!

  • Yes! This is a great step. Hopefully someone cleans up the regulations and statutes as well.

    I speak from personal experience – in 2008 I took a job managing a section of DEC and I opted out of joining the supervisor’s union. Payroll never processed my auto pay of involuntary dues, which I signed upon being hired, and the union had the power to actually require Admin to terminate my employment 2 months later with no notice and no recourse. After showing them my copy of the documents, and paying a couple months back dues, and again signing away my rights to these involuntary dues the union graciously allowed DEC to rehire me a few days later. So I’m one of the few who has actually been fired by the union. I encourage all employees to opt out.

    We’ll never reduce the bloated government until the unions start working to help the state and its workers right-size the workforce to match the mission. It needs to be easier to remove non-performers and easier to hire skilled workers. Agencies need to be free to reorganize and reduce workforce. The unions just stand in the way of all of that.

  • Show them two contracts, one negotiated by the employees and the union, and one handed down by management. I’m sticking with the union!

  • Right out of the AFP playbook, way to stand tall. Alaska is definitely a red state, but the majority are moderate and we don’t buy in to this far right BS. Governor you’ve finally lost my support.

    • Talk to the USSC; it is the law.

      • It’s not the law I’m questioning, it’s Clarkson’s interpretation of the ruling. The State was in compliance of the Janus ruling, opting out is available and widely known about. This is nothing more than a contrived issue, so this administration can push AFP’s agenda. Bought and paid for.

        • The State is nothing like in compliance with Janus. Some of the agreements have been illegal since Hudson in ’86. I made them make most of them facially legal in the ’04 negotiations, but it wasn’t worth it with some of them.

        • Read the Janus ruling. It is very clear per Justice Alito that workers MUST OPT IN, not opt out

  • Right. The Governor cares about State Employee’s First Amendment Rights. Its just ploy. Destroy the Union first and then go after employee pay and benefits. Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics from January, 2018 show that Union represented employees make around $11,000 more than their non-represented counterparts. Fair trade? $800 a year in exchange for $11,000 more in pay. I’d make that trade in a heartbeat.

    • This has more to do with the Supreme Court of The United States than it has to do with a governor of 1 of the 50 states. It’s the law of the land, settled law at that.

      • I think you need to read the Union Security Clauses in the various collective bargaining agreements, one of which his Commission of Admin just signed. Governor is buying himself yet another lawsuit that will needlessly cost the State more money.

        • The union security clauses don’t trump the US Constitution. I was reading two of them tonight, SU and GGU, about 10K employees, and neither is anywhere near compliant with Janus. The SU language for the most part is twenty or thirty years old and is barely even compliant with Abood, Hudson, and their progeny.

          • I guess well see what the courts say.

        • I don’t think I will waste my time reading documents that hold no sway. The Janus decision by the Supreme Court of The United States should be read by every union member, public and private. Have you read it?

  • Unions belong in the private sector, not the public sector. And I’m a proud dues paying union member.

    • Ditto.

    • With you on both points

  • Thank you Mr Atty General. It is about time that union workers who choose not to pay for political activities of the union leadership
    don’t have to pay for it. This does not make Alaska a “ right to work” state. It simply gives workers the right to have their dues used for proper union activities. They still have to be a member of the union as a condition of their employment.

    • No, for all intents and purposes, Janus makes all states right to work states for public employees.

      • Art: I respectfully disagree. Public employees represented by the Union are required to be members in “ good standing” as a condition of their employment. Janus gives them the right to not pay dues. As a practical matter, removing that obligation emasculates the Union in many ways. But Union
        Membership involves more than just paying dues: there is a list of things that members are required to do and not do. Some of them have financial consequences.
        So if your statement of “for all intents and purposes” is made because dues are not now required as a condition of employment, I understand your position. But membership in the union is still required.

        • Alaskans First, Please share with us the “list of things that members are required to do and not do.” I have negotiated over 100 labor contracts for management that included the good standing language. I made it point at each negotiation to ask my union adversaries what that means so we would have a record of that in the minutes. Universally the union response was paying dues. Prior to Janus I doubt if there was a labor union in this country that ever cared a wit whether members showed up at union meetings, other functions or scrupulously adhered to contract language as long as the member(s) paid dues. In fact, the members didn’t pay dues because it was extorted through check-off. Except for the construction trades, private unions would not exist if members had to write a monthly check.

  • Govt. unions offer the employees nothing more than wage negotiation. Unions drive up the cost of state services. They do so because more money for workers, and more workers, means more money for the union. Private unions offer wages, health care, training, and pensions. Not so the govt. ones.
    Nothing in this decisions will prevent employees from paying union dues voluntarily. Perhaps the unions should up their game and offer something of actual value.
    However, anything bad for the govt unions is good for us paying for it!!!

  • I’m not pro Union at all. I never needed them.

  • This is great. The next positive step would be for Governor Dunleavy to stop wearing that jacket he got from the union.

  • I work for a college, I was not offered a choice when I started, the union takes$400+ a month from my check, I don’t use union medical, I use the college benefits because they are better, and the college retirement is better than the unions. I am opting out and will take my $400+ a month for my own re-investment.

  • This is good news. I worked for the KPBSD, TOTALLY disagreed with the union activities, and felt that AK-NEA as well as the Kenai Peninsula Education Support Association were destructive to both learning and to use of taxpayer support. Anyone who is a part-time aide functions as a red-haired stepchild regarding supposed benefits trickled down by supposedly wonderful union negotiating of which they are so proud. Also, the lack of quality of some of the union reps is impressive. I know one personally who actually told me, when she gained her union position, ” I had no idea it was political.” Interestingly, her wages and benefits increased over her supervisory food service position, and she no longer performed any duties within the school district, she just represented the union. When I worked as a Sped Aide, if I wanted the job, I was forced to pay union dues. Many view this as extortion, particularly when one absolutely disagrees with union activity. I would rather have negotiated my wages and terms myself. In total disclosure, I opted to have part of the fees refunded, which meant I had no vote, thus no voice, even though the Union took monies from me, benefitted by holding and using those monies for the school year, then refunded only a portion and not the whole. I could have used those funds to either earn interest or support myself – after all, the money the union deprived me of, is money I earned.

  • When I was hired for a state job in the 90s I was forced to pay union dues. When I went to the union office I saw campaign posters covering every wall in the place. And every name I recognized, which was most of them, was a Democrat. I had registered to vote 24 years earlier, as soon as I turned 18 and I had never once voted for a Democrat. But now I was forced to pay dues to a union that supported only Democrats. That is what galled me the most about being forced to join a union or lose my job. It’s now been almost 50 years since I first registered to vote and still to this day I have never voted for a Democrat and I never will.

  • As a retired construction Union member, I wholeheartedly support unions, I mean to say those unions that do not have a monopoly and must offer their Employers a more productive and better trained workforce. Employers willingly sign union contracts because they need access to skilled craftsmen working in a competitive environment. This is not the case within Government. Look at the sums spent on education and the results of test scores. Imagine for a moment if the Road Building Unions mandated a third of all State $ be spent on their contracts. What if the roads that were built were unfinished and rough and speed limits were lowered to cover for shoddy workmanship? Would the public accept such results? I wonder.

    • They would scream! Solution remove all union contacts over a year long! Pass a law to never again allow future contract years but the budgets passed yearly by our legislature & performance standards with the right to fire anyone for cause!( non performance )

%d bloggers like this: