Alaska state workers sue union over paycheck dues deduction practices

On March 12, two Alaska state employees filed a federal lawsuit against the Alaska State Employees Association, alleging that the union has continued to deduct dues from their paychecks against their express wishes.

Who are the parties to the suit?

The plaintiffs are Linda Creed, an employee of the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, and Tyler Riberio, an employee of the Alaska Department of Transportation. Attorneys from the Alaska Policy Forum and the Liberty Justice Center represent the plaintiffs.

The defendants are the Alaska State Employees Association, an affiliate of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, and Kelly Tshibaka, in her official capacity as commissioner of the Department of Administration.

What is at issue?

Alaska’s Public Employment Relations Act (PERA) allows the automatic deduction of union dues or fees from an employee’s paycheck upon his or her written authorization. The dues deduction authorization form used by the Alaska State Employees Association establishes the following restrictions on rescinding the authorization:

This voluntary authorization and assignment shall be irrevocable, regardless of whether I am or remain a member of ASEA, for a period of one year from the date of execution or until the termination date of the collective bargaining agreement (if there is one) between the Employer and the Union, whichever occurs sooner, and for year to year thereafter unless I give the Employer and the Union written notice of revocation not less than ten (10) days and not more than twenty (20) days before the end of any yearly period.[1]

On June 27, 2018, the Supreme Court of the United States issued its ruling in Janus v. AFSCME, finding that public-sector unions cannot compel workers to pay fees to support non-political union activities (contract administration, grievance arbitration, etc.).

On Aug. 27, 2019, Alaska Attorney General Kevin Clarkson (R) issued a formal opinion establishing that, in light of Janus, the state must obtain affirmative consent from all employees in order to deduct dues or fees from their paychecks.

On September 26, 2019, pursuant to Clarkson’s opinion, Governor Mike Dunleavy (R) issued an administrative order directing Tshibaka to secure consent from employees in order to continue dues deductions. Creed and Riberio withdrew their consent, and the state stopped deducting dues from their paychecks.

On Oct. 3, 2019, a state trial court issued a temporary restraining order barring implementation of Dunleavy’s order. Dues deductions resumed for both Creed and Riberio.

The plaintiffs argue the existing restrictions violate their First Amendment rights. They are asking for an injunction against the restrictions. They also seek restitution for dues paid to the union prior to Janus, arguing their “consent to dues collection was not ‘freely given’ because it was given on an unconstitutional choice of either paying the union as a member or paying the union agency fees as a non-member.”

What are the reactions?

Daniel Suhr, attorney at the Liberty Justice Center, said, “These workers represent thousands of Alaska state employees who were finally given the right to stop paying union dues only to swiftly have that right stripped again. The Supreme Court was clear in Janus; it’s time for unions to honor workers’ rights and respect their decisions.” Alaska State Employees Association has not commented publicly on the suit as of March 20. In response to the court order enjoining Dunleavy’s order, Jake Metcalfe, executive director of the Alaska State Employee Association, said, “Our position is the right position. The governor was trying to take rights away from his own employees and that’s never a good thing.”

What comes next?

The case was filed in the United States District Court of the District of Alaska. It has been assigned to Judge H. Russel Holland, appointed to the court by President Ronald Reagan (R). The case name and number are Creed v. Alaska State Employees Association (3:20-cv-00065) .

What we’ve been reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state

We are currently tracking 93 pieces of legislation dealing with public-sector employee union policy. On the map below, a darker shade of green indicates a greater number of relevant bills. Click here for a complete list of all the bills we’re tracking.

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Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

Union Station status chart March 20, 2020.png

Number of relevant bills by partisan status of sponsor(s)

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Recent legislative actions

Below is a complete list of relevant legislative actions taken since our last issue. Bills are listed in alphabetical order, first by state then by bill number.

  • California AB2307: This bill would require public-sector employers to provide union representatives paid release time to conduct certain union activities.
    • Assembly Public Employment and Retirement Committee hearing (scheduled for March 18) postponed on March 16.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • California SB1173: Existing law requires public employers to provide unions with contact information for all employees within the bargaining unit. Existing law also requires that public employers provide unions with contact information for new employees within 30 days of hire. This bill would impose liability on employers who violate these provisions 3 or more times in a 12-month period.
    • Senate Labor, Public Employment, and Retirement Committee hearing (scheduled for March 25) postponed on March 18.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • Florida H0001: This bill would require employees who wish to join a union to sign a membership authorization form. It would require unions to revoke an employee’s membership upon his or her written request. It would also require a signed authorization to deduct dues from an employee’s salary.
    • Indefinitely postponed and withdrawn from consideration March 14 (dead).
    • Republican sponsorship.
  • Florida S0804: This bill would require employees who wish to join a union to sign a membership authorization form. It would require unions to revoke an employee’s membership upon his or her written request. It would also require a signed authorization to deduct dues from an employee’s salary.
    • Indefinitely postponed and withdrawn from consideration March 14 (dead).
    • Republican sponsorship.
  • New Jersey S2124: This bill would payroll deduction of union dues from wages or salaries of public employees.
    • Introduced and referred to Senate Labor Committee March 16.
    • Republican sponsorship.



About the author

Jerrick Adams

Jerrick Adams is a staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org.

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