Dunleavy, Clarkson attack on local hire excludes public process

Gov. Mike Dunleavy and Attorney General Kevin Clarkson want to do away with the local hire law in Alaska, using a back-door plan that excludes the public.

The attorney general told Dunleavy this week that the 1986 law is unconstitutional and should be ignored.

But if Dunleavy and the attorney general are serious, they need to do this the right way—introduce a bill to repeal the law and get it through the Legislature. That public process—with the give-and-take that allows different opinions to be heard—is what Alaska needs to decide whether the law should survive or be amended.

Dunleavy and Clarkson don’t want to engage in a public discussion.

It is far easier to simply have Clarkson announce that the law is unconstitutional and won’t be enforced, allowing Dunleavy to try to evade any responsibility for the demise of local hire. The law calls for a 90 percent Alaska employment preference on certain construction jobs created through some public works projects.

The Clarkson opinion reflects his anti-labor attitude and his penchant for picking fights.

There also appears to be a connection between the Clarkson opinion and a lawsuit filed in July by an international company that objects to the local hire law. Colaska is a subsidiary of Colas, a French company that operates in more than 50 countries.

The company said the law “discriminates against non-Alaskans and the companies that employ them to work on public works projects in Alaska.”

The company wants a refund of $158,000 in fines it has paid for violating the law.

“Discrimination between Alaska residents and non-residents based solely on the objective of economically assisting one class over the other violates the equal protection clause of the Alaskan Constitution,” the company says. Former Attorney General Mike Geraghty is handling the case for Colaska.

In the 11-page opinion that Clarkson said Dunleavy asked for, the attorney general correctly notes that “Despite its popularity among some Alaskans, Alaska Hire has not fared well in the courts.”

What might happen next is that Clarkson will go to court and say Colaska is right and ask a judge to strike down the law. This may have been a coordinated plan between the state and the company.

In any event, the governor should abandon this backdoor plan and make his case to the public and the Legislature about local hire.

Clarkson writes that one of the problems with the law is that it is “not sufficiently tailored to the problem it seeks to address…” If so, he should suggest revisions to make it fit, complying with the provision added to the Alaska Constitution in 1988 by voters that says local hire rules are acceptable in Alaska to the extent they are permitted by the U.S. Constitution.

Dermot Cole4 Comments