Alaska issues administrative order requiring opt-in procedure for state employee unions
I find it interesting when news events overlap across two or more of our coverage areas here at Ballotpedia. Alaska recently adopted a new procedure regarding membership in state employee unions via an administrative order that is significant both for public-sector union policy and regulatory procedures.
Alaska officials announced the enactment of an opt-in membership procedure for public-sector unions representing state employees. Previously, Alaska had set an annual 10-day period during which public-sector employees could opt out of union membership. Governor Mike Dunleavy (R), Attorney General Kevin Clarkson (R), and Commissioner of Administration Kelly Tshibaka announced the change via administrative order on September 26.
Dunleavy was elected as governor of Alaska in 2018 by a 7-point margin. Prior to his election, the state had been governed by independent Bill Walker, who was elected in 2014. Following the 2018 elections, there were 23 Democratic and 27 Republican governors in the U.S.
Here’s a brief summary of how this policy change affects both public-sector unions and regulatory policy:
Public-sector union policy: Dunleavy said in a statement, “As Governor of Alaska, I am legally obligated and compelled to ensure state employees’ free speech rights are protected.” Dunleavy directly cited Janus v. AFSCME, a 2018 decision in which the U.S. Supreme Court held that public-sector unions and employers cannot compel employees to become members of or give any financial support to unions as a condition of employment. The Court held that such requirements infringe upon employees’ free-speech and associational rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.
The administrative order establishing this policy change applies to the approximately 15,000 workers employed by the state government; it does not apply to municipal government workers. After the new system takes effect, employees will be able to opt in or out of union membership at any time. The opt-in system appears to be the first of its kind issued in the wake of Janus.
Implementing policy through executive action: Dunleavy announced the policy change through an administrative order. This type of executive action is called an executive order at the federal level and in many other states. The Alaska Constitution grants the governor the authority to issue administrative orders as part of his exercise of executive power and his duty to supervise the departments and agencies of the executive branch.
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