Anchorage judge rules Dunleavy administration’s overhaul of union dues is unconstitutional

Gov. Mike Dunleavy
Gov. Mike Dunleavy
Published: Feb. 8, 2021 at 6:58 PM AKST
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JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) - An Anchorage Superior Court judge ruled that the Dunleavy administration violated the Alaska Constitution by unilaterally changing how state employees’ union dues are collected.

In 2019, Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced the creation of an opt-in program for the collection of union dues for state employees.

Former Alaska Attorney General Kevin Clarkson issued a formal opinion in August 2019, saying an opt-in program is a requirement under the First Amendment after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus decision in 2018.

Judge Gregory Miller didn’t agree. He issued an order on Monday, ruling that the Dunleavy administration had violated the state’s collective bargaining agreement with the Alaska State Employees Association by unilaterally changing how public sector employees have their dues collected and dealing directly with union members.

Miller also invalidated Clarkson’s legal opinion, meaning it has no legal effect and ordered the state of Alaska to pay the union over $186,000 in damages.

Jake Metcalfe, the executive director of the state’s largest public sector union, applauded Miller’s decision.

“We are grateful for the permanent injunction, not only for ASEA members but for every public employee union in Alaska,” Metcalfe said through a prepared statement. “This injunction allows all of us to continue our representation and work to make life better for every employee, public or private, in Alaska.”

In September of 2019, Miller issued a temporary injunction, preventing the Dunleavy administration from implementing its changes to how union dues are collected. The Department of Law is still reviewing Monday’s decision and determining its next steps.

“Judge Miller’s decision in the ASEA lawsuit issued today is disappointing but not unexpected based on his quick ruling at the preliminary injunction stage,” said Maria Bahr, a spokesperson for the department.

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