The effort to secure the right of workers to be free of union coercion took another step forward recently, this time in Alaska. That’s when Attorney General Kevin Clarkson issued an opinion which asserts that the state government may not collect union dues from public employees absent evidence of an employee’s consent. Clarkson’s opinion was almost immediately followed by Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administrative
order, which called on the state Department of Administration to develop an opt-in program for state employees to determine whether they wish to continue or begin withdrawal of union dues from their paychecks. Both opinions mark the first examples of state policymakers taking action on behalf of public employees to ensure that the full intent of a major 2018 court ruling is respected.
On June 27, 2018, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Janus v. AFSCME that forcing public employees to subsidize labor unions violates their First Amendment rights. Therefore, states must have “clear and compelling evidence” that public sector workers wish to waive these rights before deducting union dues from their paychecks. Clarkson’s opinion holds that Alaska’s payroll system did not comply with Janus; public workers in Alaska must provide clear consent — by opting in annually — before employers withhold union dues.
The Mackinac Center’s national labor reform organization, Workers for Opportunity, or WFO, has been the leader in championing this and other labor reforms that follow up on the Janus ruling. WFO celebrates this tremendous victory for Alaska’s public employees, alongside our state-based partner, the Alaska Policy Forum. Such progress is only made possible by the ongoing research, expertise and support that organizations like WFO and APF provide to lawmakers as they address their responsibilities to properly implement worker freedoms restored by the Supreme Court.
“Working with the Mackinac Center for Public Policy on our worker freedom efforts is a true pleasure,” explains Bethany Marcum, president of the Alaska Policy Forum. “As a very small think tank, APF has limited capacity, while the opportunities for positive reforms in Alaska are enormous. It has been a natural fit for us to partner with Mackinac’s WFO to leverage the policy expertise they provide on labor issues. Mackinac provided us with data, guidance, and legal counsel that has supported our work on the ground with policymakers to move significant reforms forward. Their passion for worker freedom is evident, and together, we are proud of the progress and leadership demonstrated by Alaskan state lawmakers.”