State will enforce Janus decision: Employees will opt in, not just opt out - Must Read Alaska
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Friday, November 22, 2019
HomePoliticsState will enforce Janus decision: Employees will opt in, not just opt out

State will enforce Janus decision: Employees will opt in, not just opt out

Alaska is the first in the nation to enforce the Janus ruling of the Supreme Court. But expect a lawsuit from the public employee unions.

Gov. Michael Dunleavy, Attorney General Kevin Clarkson and Commissioner of Administration Kelly Tshibaka today announced an administrative order to enforce the law regarding the collection of public employee union dues.

“When I took office I made a commitment to the people of Alaska that I would follow the constitution,” Dunleavy said.

“This administrative order is the result of the Supreme Court ruling known as Janus, which states that public employees have the right to freely associate with unions,” said Dunleavy. “As governor of Alaska, I am legally obligated and compelled to ensure state employees’ free speech rights are protected.”

“A decision to pay or not pay union dues is the employees’ decisions to make, said Tshibaka. “The Department of Administration is committed to informing our employees about their constitutional rights so they can make informed choices that are best for themselves.”

Clarkson said that the way the Walker Administration had enforced the Janus ruling was to allow employees a 10-day opt-out period per year, which Clarkson says is unconstitutional.

The Dunleavy Administration intends to create a method that sets up an affirmative “opt-in” system that the unions won’t control.

In Janus, the Supreme Court held that 1) government employees cannot be required to pay dues or fees to a public sector union as a condition of employment, and 2) no money can be deducted by employers for public sector unions “unless the employee affirmatively consents to pay.” Public employers, such as the State, cannot according to the court, deduct union dues or fees from an employee’s wages unless the employer has “clear and compelling evidence” that the employee has authorized such deductions.

The administrative order only applies to State of Alaska employees currently represented by a union.

The administrative order directs the Alaska Department of Administration to create an initial opt-in program where unionized State employees decide, online or in written form, if they want union dues deducted from their paychecks, which would be revocable at any time.

“A decision to pay or not pay union dues is the employees’ decision to make,”Tshibaka said. “The Department of Administration is committed to informing our employees about their constitutional rights so they can make informed choices that are best for themselves.”

The administrative order is based on Clarkson’s legal opinion on the Janus decision that found the State is not in compliance with the Supreme Court’s ruling. 

“The State has put itself at risk of unwittingly burdening the First Amendment rights of its own employees. A course correction is required,” Clarkson said.

[Read the administrative order here]

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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

  • The Unions are trying to circumvent the Ruling from the highest court in the land because they are afraid that workers will realize they do not have to accept the extortion from Union Bosses.

  • Exactly. These days, unions don’t bring much to the table, and employees that aren’t members get the same benefits as those that are. Why throw money at an organization just because my grandpa did. Times change.

  • A dumb question for the experts out there:

    Affirmative opting in / opting out, while fun, seems to be of secondary importance. Why doesn’t the State simply get out of the dues collecting business? As I understand it, union dues and agency fees are deducted out of the paychecks and sent along to the unions. Why is the SoA doing that for them? This is likely spelled out in various contracts, but the SCOTUS rendered that illegal when they decided on Janus.

    Happily, unions are going to regret playing along with Tall Man Bad and the Walkerite recall petition. Cheers –

    • The Public Employment Relations Act (AS 23.40.070 – 260) requires a public employer to honor a dues deduction authorization and to process and transmit that deduction to the union. Almost uniquely among bargaining schemes, the so-called “dues checkoff” in which the employer collects and transmits the dues is not a creature of contract under the Alaska law, but rather once the union is recognized as the exclusive representative it can begin forcing the employer to collect dues for the union.

      From the perspective of a labor relations professional there are good reasons to have a dues checkoff in a contract; if you get a contract you are satisfied with, you give the union a checkoff and then say goodbye to the union for three years. The last thing you want is union reps slithering around your workplace stirring up trouble trying to enlist members and collect dues.

      Nothing in Janus will effect an Alaska public employer’s duty to honor a dues deduction authorization if the employee elects to make the authorization. I and better men than I have tried to amend PERA in ways the unions didn’t like and we’ve all failed. In a sane world the checkoff would be a creature of contract, but the unions owned the government in ’72 and got their guaranteed dues thus giving them much more power to negotiate a successor agreement than they would have without the checkoff independent of a contract.

      • Nota bene: Agency fees ceased to exist with Janus. Under Janus an employee either chooses to be a full member of the union or is not a member at all.

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