Sowing the wind for union to organize state's attorneys - Must Read Alaska
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Tuesday, December 10, 2019
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Sowing the wind for union to organize state’s attorneys

Art Chance

By ART CHANCE
SENIOR CONTRIBUTOR

The Left and State employees recoiled in shock when the Dunleavy Administration asked for the resignations of several hundred exempt and partially exempt employees as it took office.

Even though they took a lot of criticism for the initial resignation requests, the Administration actually only acted on a handful of them. The last I heard, it was only a hundred or so.

The moral of that story is you get as much criticism for a little as you do for a lot, so always go for a lot.

Some on the Left said that I was behind the resignation requests, and, yes, I am on record as advocating that any Republican taking over from a Democrat should dismiss everyone who they have a colorable legal right to dismiss.

Dunleavy people might have read my book or some of my writing, but the way you can tell that I had nothing to do with it is that I would have known which employees I had a legal right to fire and I would have fired them all; in for a penny, in for a pound.

The Dunleavy Administration didn’t fire many of the partially exempt assistant attorneys general, although they did fire one of the better known ones, Libby Bakalar, and she’s suing them over it.

Partially-exempt employees are as close to “at will” employees as the State has, although they’re not truly at will. I’ve had some pretty good Facebook arguments with lawyers and guardhouse lawyers about the notion that exempt and partially exempt employees are at will and can be dismissed “just because.” They can’t.

At minimum if you dismiss one, a Superior Court judge is going to be able to substitute his/her judgment for yours, and you may find yourself taking a fireproof employee back. These are fights you don’t start unless you have the will and the time to get the case to the Supreme Court.

The Administration sowed the wind with the resignation requests and now they’re reaping the whirlwind. Right now, the Alaska State Employees Association has an organizing drive going among the State’s assistant attorneys general. In the current state of Alaska’s public sector labor law and practice, there is nothing to stop them.

Back in the Frank Murkowski Administration, a deputy commissioner and I were only half-jokingly talking about organizing all of the Murkowski Administration’s appointees below Commissioner into “Art and Kevin’s Union,” because we thought it would be fun for Sarah Palin, who hated all things Murkowski, to have to deal with the cause and process provisions of a union contract to get rid of all of us.

We weren’t serious but the threat is.

It wouldn’t be the end of the world if some of the assistant attorneys general became union; they’re researchers, writers, and briefcase toters. That’s the reason you have to be so careful considering them to be at will employees. But some of the higher level assistant attorneys general are intimately involved in policy-making and in effecting policy, and it would be really important to have your own attorneys in those positions.

A conversation I’ve had with lots of political principals was admonishing them to think about what the other guy might do with that new toy they wanted. Ask Harry Reid how he feels about “the nuclear option” on Supreme Court justices now that it is President Donald Trump appointing them and a Republican Senate confirming them.

This is another example of how confident, even audacious, the unions/Democrats have become. Keeping the Department of Law’s professional staff out of the union orbit was a Hammond Administration initiative and the unions haven’t challenged it in now nearly 40 years – until now.

The State can defeat the organizing drive, but doing so goes to the very heart of the Public Employment Relations Act and just which public employees are granted collective bargaining rights.

That’s a battle to the Supreme Court and since it involves the lawyers in the Department of Law, the State is going to need outside counsel to pursue the matter.

I tried to take some employees out of bargaining during the Hickel Administration and won before the Alaska Labor Relations Agency. Law stalled and sandbagged on the way to court, let the venue get changed from Juneau to Ketchikan away from prying eyes, and then managed to conveniently lose the case. Then the Knowles Administration sold the appeal to the unions.

I firmly believe the Department of Law cannot be trusted to defend the Administration or the State’s interests in such a dispute.

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. 

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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

  • What bloviating BS!

  • Just another insignificant old white man trying to sell a book.

    • Obviously, Debra Hill is severely prejudiced against older, white males. She feels threatened by them on many counts, but primarily, because Art thinks constructively and writes cogently. Debra Hill’s one sentence shows her depth and skill-set. A true minimalist.

      On another note, the law school grads who go on to government careers usually make the worst attorneys (with the exception of well-trained prosecutors). Asst. AG’s who move on to Superior Court judgeships usually make the worst judges. They might be nice individuals, but their critical thinking skills and legal interpretation skills are sadly below par.
      Finally, I love Art’s breadth of knowledge about state government and the bureaucratic politics being played out behind the scenes in Alaska. His experience is invaluable, just as a color commentator would discuss in an NFL game.
      As for resignations: when Clinton took office in 1993, the first thing he and HRC did was to replace all 96 US District Attorneys. Most of them Democrats, if not all. Republicans would be chastised to kingdom come if they did that.

      • Thank you for the kind words! I’ll defend the AAGs a bit. There are basically three kinds: one group, the largest, is a government lawyer because s/he would starve to death in private practice, the second is the good lawyer who doesn’t have the desire or temperament to hustle clients and hours for a private firm and will take the lesser money for the more stable life, and the third may or may not be a good lawyer but is driven by ideological zeal, mostly leftist ideology, to change the World.

  • ASEA only serves one purpose. Money! More members, more money. With the Supreme Court decision messing up forced employee payment to the union, they must be losing some members. Expansion is about their only game left. Who in their right mind would give their money to en entity that offers nothing except “bargaining” and your not required anymore to pay for it?

  • Public Sector Unions = Marxism. They should be banned constitutionally, as they create a Government that solely exists to protect these Apparatchiks within the government and not the rights and freedoms of the citizens at large. In short its this Public Sector Union tyranny that is keeping Alaskans hostage to huge spending deficits and the theft of the Permanent Fund which was a trade off for the loss of mineral rights by private property owners.

  • Former Governor Walker made it impossible for sate employees to opt out of the unions after the Janus decision. I haven’t seen anything come out of the Dunleavy administration reversing Walker’s policy as of yet but I would sure like to!

  • Mongo, you are so right, but one additional note: the members of private sector unions carry the load and in many instances are the truly skilled backbone of American production. It’s the labor union BOSSES who corruptly steal, rob, lie, cheat, and behave like Marxists and little Hitlers within their own organizations. And the government that is supposed to control and prosecute the heads of these unions (DOL), turns their blind eye, and often aides and abets the union bosses. Why do you suppose that is?

    • Most likely reasons:
      1. The top officials at the US Department of Labor are comprised of former union bosses.
      2. The unions provide under-the-table pay-offs to top DOL officials to remain quiet and quash legitimate complaints by union members who file complaints to the DOL.

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