Union wins temporary restraining order stopping Dunleavy plan to curb membership

An Anchorage Superior Court judge stopped the effort by the Gov. Mike Dunleavy and Attorney General Kevin Clarkson to make collecting union dues a harder chore for Alaska public employee unions.

The temporary restraining order issued Thursday is a temporary victory for the Alaska State Employees Association, which is trying to stop Dunleavy and Clarkson from implementing policies to make it easier for employees to stop paying dues, which would harm the unions.

The Janus Supreme Court case “does not support the state’s position,” Judge Gregory Miller said in granting a temporary restraining order stopping the state from changing the dues collection process. Here is the decision.

The state said that 11 employees have withdrawn their support for the union and “no doubt the state will seek to have more employees take this step. Any actions taken by the state to encourage individuals to stop paying union dues or to otherwise discourage union membership will cause ASEA irreparable injury,” the judge wrote.

Miller said the ruling is limited to the temporary restraining order only. “The decision does not tell any employee who must, may, can or can’t join or leave ASEA. What this order does is preserve the status quo as this litigation proceeds.”

The judge said the situation is “of the state’s creation” and that the Dunleavy administration has injected itself into the dues collection process.

The judge gave a stinging rebuke of the analysis put forward by Clarkson and the governor. Clarkson took to Twitter to defend himself, saying, “That the Janus case involved a non-union member does not mean that the decision has no application to union dues paid by members.”

The Dunleavy administration has advanced a theory “contrary to the direct wording of Janus,” contrary to the position taken by the Walker administration, contrary to all known AG opinions from other states, contrary to nine federal court decisions, two administrative agency decisions and two arbitration awards.

“Thus, ASEA has demonstrated probable success on the merits,” Miller said.

Under the opinion put forward by Clarkson, “the state could arguably require union members to reaffirm their membership every two weeks before receiving each paycheck, or the state could describe union membership in a hostile way on authorization forms it drafts.”

Miller said the behavior by the state seems directly at odds with state law and the union agreement it has signed. He also said that Clarkson and attorneys under him did not make a good case as to why the existing annual opt-out available to employees is not sufficient.

Dermot Cole