Dunleavy signs order that would affect state worker unions

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy announces at a news conference Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019, in Anchorage, Alaska, that he has signed an administrative order directing state officials to create a program where state employees can opt in or out from having union fees and dues deducted from their checks. The state is implementing the program so it says it can comply with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling while seeking a court order that would sanction the process, and unions have countersued. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)
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JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) Gov. Mike Dunleavy has signed an administrative order he said is needed to protect free speech rights of state employees and whether they want to associate with unions.

He told reporters in Anchorage Thursday that this isn’t an anti-union or pro-union issue but about complying with a U.S. Supreme Court decision. The order the Republican governor signed calls for new procedures to allow employees to opt in or out of paying dues and fees. The administration said it’s aiming to have the system in place by early December.

Attorney General Kevin Clarkson has said the state is not fully compliant with a U.S. Supreme Court decision that found government workers can’t be forced to contribute to labor unions that represent them in collective bargaining.

The state last week initiated a lawsuit seeking a court order declaring that it must stop deducting dues or fees from an employee’s check when the employee no longer wishes to contribute to a union.

The Alaska State Employees Association, which says it represents about 8,000 workers, is seeking to block any changes to the dues’ deduction process. In court filings, the union cast the administration’s actions as an attempt to hamper the effectiveness of public employees’ unions.

Asked if he sees a role for robust public sector unions, Dunleavy said that’s up to the membership to decide. He said the state has long had unions and he doesn’t see that “changing radically.”

Commissioner of Administration Kelly Tshibaka said 25 employees had asked to opt out of their unions.