Judge denies state employee union’s request for instant restraining order


 Superior Court Judge Thomas A. Matthews said no to the Alaska State Employees Association, which was trying to force the State of Alaska to send more than half of the state workforce home.

ASEA had asked for a Temporary Restraining Order to effectively require the State of Alaska to close state offices and send roughly one half of the state’s workforce home. ASEA, in its request, did not concern itself with the impact of what would be a major disruption to government and how the public would be put at risk if workers were ordered to stay home during a global pandemic emergency.

Applauding the trial court’s order, Attorney General Kevin Clarkson said, “Judge Matthews recognized that government power regarding how to address the COVID-19 pandemic, while continuing to maintain essential state services, is entrusted to the Governor and not the judiciary. The State of Alaska is doing all it can to ensure the safety of our valued state employees.”  

“As noted by Judge Matthews in the court’s order, the issues faced by Governor Dunleavy’s administration in the ever-changing face of this pandemic are daunting, and the situation is ‘like trying to fly an airplane at the same time you’re building it.’  These are unprecedented times and we must all step up to do what we can to get through this pandemic, while still keeping the State functioning to provide essential services to Alaskans.” 

The Superior Court heard the matter on an expedited basis. The court ordered a telephonic status/pretrial conference for April 6, 2020 at 3 pm. 

In filing the lawsuit, Executive Director of the AFSCME Jake Metcalfe stated:

Our contract guarantees employees safety and security in the workplace. A pandemic does not mean that our contract goes out the window. This is when it is especially important that we look out for everyone’s health and safety due to the high rate of transmission of this virus. We aren’t asking for state government to shut down – we’re asking that non-essential staff who are able to work from home, to be given that permission – and for critical staff who must continue to work, to have the ability to practice proper social distancing and to have access to hand sanitizer and other cleaning products for wiping down shared surfaces. We’re also asking for relief from delays in processing telework agreements and for paid administrative leave for employees who can work from home but are waiting for logistics to get worked out. We know this is complicated, this isn’t anything any of us were prepared for – but it’s critical that we work together to look out for the health and safety of all Alaskans which means requiring as much as your workforce as possible to work from home.

But for many departments, nearly half of the State workforce is already working from home, and those who work in Corrections, Public Safety, and child protection, among others, must continue to interact with clients and the public. The State departments are implementing precautions, but none are sufficient for Metcalfe.


  1. Jake, Old Juneau Friend, Me thinks that thou protest too much. Come on , really? Tell you what, I need to get my Drivers License renewed before the middle of April, if one of your Union members can get this done from home, I am down with you, (eye exam, picture taken, etc…) , if not… suck it up Jake. Lots of folks out of work right now.
    It isn’t always about Politics, is it?

  2. Let all of the non-essential employees go home and don’t bring them back when this has resolved. Keep the essential employees on the job (working from home if possible). With the current budget issues we really shouldn’t be paying for non-essential employees anyway.

    • Agree. Cut them, let the lawsuits ensue. Get through those and be done with them. They fund non existent PCN’s, people that don’t do @*%&, and fight to keep them on to pad the union coffers. The waste is incredible.

    • Brilliant idea. If they’re non-essential, we don’t need them. Let them seek work elsewhere. Nice thing about it – I’m sure there are seniority provisions in their contracts. It would be fun to watch them eat each other alive once their position is deemed “non-essential” and they can fight amongst themselves who gets to stay and who gets to go.

  3. So let me get this right: The Democrat Legislative Body passes a Union special interest Operating Budget with the top highlighted accomplishment of The operating budget: ” Ensured that no State worker will lose current wages or benefits or face furloughs. All step and merit pay increases will continue. ” This when who knows where the State financial bucket bottom will be is….All this when millions of citizens are becoming unemployed and furloughed because of the collapsed economy…..Then, the Union files lawsuit to demand State offices to be closed and 1/2 State workers be sent home. . Not knocking State workers…they work hard but they are certainly a pretty protected class already at a much higher level than the State Citizens they serve.

  4. Suzanne –

    This is the 2nd time this week I see you write something about the State employee worker and hear your contempt for us. Yes, I am a State Employee and I work my A** off. I am a Conservative Republican, helped to get Dunleavy elected and usually don’t support the unions. I feel the need to inform you of what is REALLY going on. Most everywhere across the State, and even in my division, ALL supervisors/managers are approved to work from home. The rest of us are not. Even though a lot of us can. We are being told it is not approved at this time. Dunleavy was asked last week “how many State workers are telecommuting”? He was not able to answer that. So, for you to say ½, I seriously doubt this is correct. The reason why ASEA got involved is because they were being BLASTED by State workers to help or intervene. A lot of us have families that we have to return to every night. The chances of infecting them is scary. ASEA didn’t think it fair that ONLY supervisors/managers get to work from home. ½ of them probably don’t even put in a full days’ worth of work. The leadership in this State has gone downhill in the last couple of years. Many who should never be in leadership positions because of how they treat people. Well I have learned it starts from the TOP up and trickles downhill. I know you work closely with Dunleavy and pretty sure the contempt for the State worker comes from you both! Might as well be Hillary Clinton calling us “the basket of deplorables” because it really shows. Maybe you should spend some time investigating what is happening with the State workers during these unprecedented times, instead of posting such contempt against us. Oh yeah, I forgot, you work closely with the Governor and would never post anything that might show him not doing the right thing. This is also biased journalism. I see the hypocrisy. Again, I am not a big fan of Unions and their political left agenda, but in this instance, I support what they are doing. I believe the Governor thinks we are a “a basket of deplorables” and I will never support him again. He lost my vote!

    • And there you have it, folks. The “it’s all about me” reaction from the public servant that we have come to expect.

      • Nope, not about me at all. It’s about people who are told to go to work, who can work from home, but not allowed because ONLY supervisors/managers are approved. Why only the managers and supervisors. Are the rest of us less than? indispensable? Deplorables? THATS my point. And the constant contempt towards the state worker from this journalist! No better than the liberals! Some of us actually work hard and dedicated to serving the public!

        • You’re reading way to much into this “LMoore” or is it “LM” at this moment (or one in the same??). I get no tone of “contempt”, just the reporting of facts.

  5. Agree with Kevin. Give Metcalf what he wants……..send his non essential workforce home permanently! Time to trim the fat. ASEA can trim some fat too!

  6. Public employees are not public employees if they are represented by a union. Yes, public employee unions have been declared legal, but that does not make it right. It makes it a right…..which could change. Many issues in our social structure were not acceptable but now are, and many issues were acceptable but now aren’t. Legal $ = bully escalation whether in public or private.

  7. Finally the state employees get slapped instead of the private sector. Yes some of them work hard and want to be recognized just like the private sector who does not have a big bad union that takes from everyone. I fell as sorry for them as they do us at the polls. Get rid of the unions and then we will talk.

  8. Of course all of those employees who want to be released would also expect to be paid without leave usage. The private sector doesn’t have that option and certainly those who feed at the public trough shouldn’t either. Those who leave a job without justified medical excuses during this pandemic should be terminated. Find out what it’s like to be without a Cadillac health plan, paid leave, paid holidays and retirement. Unions create hostile work environments, selfish exceptionalism in employees and appropriate dues for fraudulent and unethical uses.

  9. I eagerly await the response when those who demean public workers find out what happens when they are all furloughed.

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