Commissioner of Labor Drygas protests Fairbanks City Hall



Alaska’s Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development was in Fairbanks this week for the AFL-CIO convention, and took the opportunity to walk the picket line with union members protesting the City of Fairbanks.

Heidi Drygas held a sign that read “Fair Contracts Now,” with two dozen other union activists in a moment that was calculated to coincide with the AFL-CIO statewide convention in Fairbanks.

Vince Beltrami, president of the Alaska AFL-CIO, bellowed into the microphone that the union wanted the city to know that they were there. The bullhorn chanting continued between speeches from union officials demanding higher wages, more benefits, and better working conditions for city employees. It was loud.

The AFL-CIO drafted a resolution to boycott conventions in Fairbanks until the city negotiates in good faith with the Fairbanks Fire Fighters Association, the Public Safety Employees Association and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Considering the city and the unions are negotiating actively right now, a visible presence at a protest by a sitting state commissioner is questionable from an ethical perspective, particularly since her paycheck comes from the people of Alaska. She was in Fairbanks ostensibly on the people’s business, representing the State at the big union convention.


The coveted endorsement of the AFL-CIO went to Gov. Walker today, perhaps helped along by the Labor commissioner’s Thursday enthusiasm for protest against the City of Fairbanks.

The endorsement was expected and foreshadowed by AFL-CIO President Beltrami several weeks ago in the media.

Mark Begich, the Democrat running for governor, had also attended the convention along with the governor and his entourage.

Both Walker and Begich spoke to the gathering of over 100 attendees before the vote was taken. This was clearly campaign business going on in Fairbanks, but the governor threw in a bill signing in Healy the day before to make sure he could write off the trip for himself and his staff, and so they could all attend the AFL-CIO convention on the the state’s dime.

Flying home from Fairbanks on Friday was a jubilant Walker and Mallott, a plane full of union leaders and executive staff from the Governor’s Office, including the governor’s Press Secretary Austin Baird, Deputy Chief of Staff Grace Jang, and Chief of Staff Scott Kendall. Also on the plane was Mark Begich without an entourage.

The governor’s campaign manager John-Henry Heckendorn was spotted in the airport lounge having drinks with Walker’s senior staff and on a flight to Anchorage on Friday.

Yesterday, Begich had won the endorsement from the Alaska Center for the Environment.

Today, Alaskans Together for Equality,  Alaska’s largest member-based statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer civil rights organization, announced its endorsement of Begich.

“The board considered the high stakes in this election and the looming threats against Alaskans’ civil rights. This is the first time Alaskans Together has endorsed a candidate for Governor,” the organization said in a release.


  1. This is just plain weird! First the odd, rambling article she wrote in the August 2018 DOL Trends “Unions are the Foundation of the Middle Class” and now hanging out on picket lines. This is the DOL Commissioner! There just seems to be something wrong with this……

  2. This is shameful behavior by a top state official. Siding with unions, and worse yet joining their protests, against the interests of Alaska’s second largest city (and my home town) is unethical for sure because she is in a position of authority affecting disputes and other actions by both the city and the unions. Probably nothing will come of it, but an ethics complaint regarding her behavior would be interesting. Let’s see – “The ethics supervisor for a Commissioner is Shawn Henderson, Director of Administrative Services in the Office of Governor, by delegation from the Governor.”

    Now . . . what is needed to have standing for filing an ethics complaint ? ?

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