Dermot Cole

Dermot Cole





A recent column in USA Today claimed that Alaska will be the first state in the union to use the Supreme Court ruling in the Janus case to make it harder for state unions to collect union dues, courtesy of Gov. Mike Dunleavy and Attorney General Kevin Clarkson.

What USA Today readers did not learn from the government-funded column is that the claim is false. A court order has placed an indefinite hold on the Dunleavy-Clarkson anti-union crusade and no one can say what will or will not happen.

The alleged author of the column, Dunleavy, said he is “proud to report that Alaska will become the first state to comply with the Supreme Court’s directive that governments obtain the clear and affirmative consent of each worker.”

“These reforms will ensure that our hardworking public servants retain their freedom of association and cannot be forced to support political organizations with whom they do not agree,” the governor said.

Mentioning the preliminary injunction issued Nov. 5 would have contradicted the entire point of the column about Alaska being in the vanguard of the crusade to expand the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the Janus case. Clarkson wants to go beyond the wording of the decision, an admission that would have portrayed him as a legal outlier.

Falsely portraying the Dunleavy-Clarkson plan as a done deal may be part of trying to recruit allies Outside, both financial and otherwise, to help Dunleavy and Clarkson get this case to the U.S. Supreme Court. They want to allow union workers to stop paying dues at any time.

Dunleavy-Clarkson will need more money to continue the case, as the $600-per-hour attorneys Clarkson hired will soon exhaust the limits of their $100,000 no-bid contract, if they haven’t already. The attorney general is looking to spend $500,000 to $600,000 more, but there’s a good chance the Legislature will take a reasonable position and say no.

While Dunleavy praises the “rigorous legal review” by Clarkson for USA Today readers, they didn’t see any mention of Anchorage Superior Court Judge Gregory Miller, who takes a contrary view.

“The state advances a position contrary to the express wording of Janus, contrary to the memorandum opinion issued by his predecessor in office, contrary to all known opinions from other states’ attorneys general, and contrary to nine federal court decisions, two administrative agency decisions, and two arbitration awards,” Miller wrote in an Oct. 3 order that halted the Dunleavy-Clarkson plan with a temporary restraining order.

By the time Miller granted a preliminary injunction against the state Nov. 5, two more courts had “entered orders that essentially reject how AG Clarkson urges this court to interpret Janus.”

The judge could find no support for Clarkson’s claims in any Supreme Court case, in state labor law or in the collective bargaining agreement the state signed with the union this summer.

Miller had said in his earlier order that the union involved in the lawsuit, the Alaska State Employees Association, “has demonstrated probable success on the merits.”

“Under the attorney general’s proposal, the state could arguably require union members to reaffirm their membership every two weeks before receiving each paycheck,” Miller said.

The plan in effect now allows union members to opt-out once a year during a 10-day period, similar to qualifying or withdrawing from health insurance.

All of this was withheld from the readers of USA Today.

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