DID HER ESSAY PROMPT THIS WEEK’S ADMINISTRATIVE ORDER?
Heidi Drygas used her state position as the head of Labor and Workforce Development to rail against the recent Janus v AFSCME decision, which is a Supreme Court case that decided public employees cannot be forced or coerced to pay union dues.
Drygas wants pro-union legislation to fight back.
“Given the clear public policy benefits of unions, our elected leaders should enact legislation to support them and institute other policies that raise wages and improve economic security. We face a clear choice in Alaska: We can neglect workers’ rights and let our middle class suffer a slow death like we’ve seen in the Lower 48, or we can restore it by supporting unions and enacting policies that support working families. I know what side of history I want to be on,” she wrote.
None of what she has written in her essay applies to the very comfortable and secure lives that most public employees in Alaska lead, with a 37.5 hour work week and the best health care benefits on the planet.
Drygas is key to keeping State labor costs in check, but she’s advocating for raising the wages of public employees and making it harder to fire them for cause. She argues, we’ll “suffer a slow death” in Alaska.
Gov. Bill Walker may share Drygas’ opinions about empowering public employee unions, but the day after Drygas’ essay, he issued Administrative Order #296.
In it, he said that while unions have an important role, Alaskans have their right to privacy. In light of Janus vs. AFSCME, concerns have arisen that union organizers may seek to obtain State employees’ personal information and infringe on employees’ privacy, or that State entities may discourage or encourage union membership.
He reiterated that the State must remain neutral with respect to membership in an employee organization, and shall not disclose, unless required by law, addresses, phone numbers, or other contact information for employees of the State of Alaska.
Further, he wrote, “No State entity shall (a) discourage or encourage an employee in joining, forming, or assisting an employee organization; (b) discourage or encourage an employee to resign or relinquish membership in an exclusive bargaining representative; or (c) discourage or encourage an employee to revoke authorization of the deduction of fees to an exclusive bargaining representative.”