Unionized state employees will reaffirm deduction of union dues says Admin Order
Posted & Edited By MARY KAUFFMAN
September 28, 2019
“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 Governor Dunleavy. “As Governor of Alaska, I am legally obligated and compelled to ensure state employees’ free speech rights are protected. Today’s announcement, which provides employees the necessary flexibility and freedom under the court’s ruling, is about the State complying with the law.”
Quoting a news release from the governor, 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 governor's 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,” said Department of Administration Commissioner Kelly 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.”
The administrative order is based on Attorney General Kevin 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,” said Attorney General Clarkson.
In response to the administrative order, Alaska Senate Democratic Leader Tom Begich (D-Anchorage) released a prepared statement saying, “There is ongoing litigation against Governor Dunleavy and Attorney General Clarkson because of their recent decision to overstep the intent of the Janusdecision. Governor Dunleavy is, once again, circumventing the public process by attempting to take action without oversight or legislative approval. Clearly, Governor Dunleavy does not believe he can win the legal challenge against his earlier action, so he is doing everything he can to dismantle protections for working-class families before the courts can rule."
Begich said, "These are hard-working Alaskans that the Governor is directly attacking. We are a state that proudly looks out for working families, and we must do everything within our power to continue to protect working Alaskans and grow our workforce. Unfortunately, Governor Dunleavy and his Attorney General are fighting to dismantle our middle-class and those unions that protect workers’ rights."
“Governor Dunleavy and Attorney General Clarkson keep referring to this Administrative Order and legal opinion as a First Amendment right for workers but let's not be fooled by his rhetoric. Before even taking office, he demanded all non-union employees swear loyalty to his political agenda and his administration. This Governor does not have working Alaskans’ First Amendment rights in mind, and there is a clear record of that," said Begich.
Earlier this month, following requests from several state employees to stop deducting union dues from their paychecks, the Alaska Department of Administration (DOA), upon advice from the Alaska Department of Law, processed the requests and notified the union that the State would be halting deductions for these employees. The Alaska State Employees Association (ASEA), representing the general government bargaining unit, objected and threatened litigation.
Quoting a Dept. of Law news release, the Alaska State Employees Association insists that the Alaska Dept. of Administration could not honor these requests and that DOA’s decision to do so was unlawful. In light of the dispute between ASEA and the State, and the importance of alleviating the legal uncertainty surrounding state employees’ First Amendment rights, Attorney General Kevin G. Clarkson filed a lawsuit on September 16, 2019 asking the court to confirm that Alaska Department of Administration, upon a direct request from an employee, should stop deducting dues from that employee’s paycheck.
“The Supreme Court made it clear in Janus that public employees have the freedom to pay union dues or not,” said Attorney General Clarkson. “Janus also requires that the State have clear and compelling evidence of a state employee’s choice to pay union dues. If the State receives a direct request to stop paying union dues, the State must honor that request or else it would be violating the employee’s First Amendment right. Because we want to make sure we are acting in compliance with the Constitution, we are asking the court to confirm the State’s actions in halting dues deductions when directly requested by an employee.”
Under the prior administration, DOA had sent employees back to the unions to make a request to stop union dues deductions. After re-evaluating the Janus v. AFSCME decision, Attorney General Clarkson released an Attorney General Opinion concluding that some of the State’s current practices relating to collection of union dues are not in compliance with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision.
Following the issuance of the Attorney General Opinion, several employees reached out to DOA requesting that the State stop deducting union dues from their paychecks. Although DOA is still addressing how to fully implement the Attorney General Opinion, DOA was faced with these requests and acted in accordance with the Opinion and additional advice from the Department of Law.
According to the Dept. of Law, by filing this lawsuit, the State is proactively seeking clarity from the court to ensure employees’ rights are fully protected.
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