Alaska State Employees Association Defeats Alaska Governor’s Attempt to Undermine Public Employee Collective Bargaining and Interfere with Union Membership

On February 8, 2021, the Alaska State Superior Court delivered a complete victory to the Alaska State Employees Association, AFSCME Local 52 (“ASEA”) in a dispute with the State of Alaska about the deduction of voluntary union membership dues.

In 2019, Alaska’s Governor Michael Dunleavy and now-former Attorney General Kevin Clarkson announced that the State would immediately and unilaterally implement a new policy to terminate all state employees’ union dues deductions and require state employee union members to annually renew their dues deduction authorizations after receiving a government “warning” that doing so would involve waiving their constitutional rights.  The State then sued ASEA, Alaska’s largest public employee union, seeking a declaratory judgment endorsing the executive branch’s new policy.  ASEA, represented by Altshuler Berzon LLP and Alaska counsel Dillon & Findley, PC, defended against the State’s claims and countersued, alleging that the State’s actions violated the collective bargaining agreement between the State and ASEA, the Alaska Public Employment Relations Act, and the Alaska Administrative Procedures Act, violated the separation of powers enshrined in the Alaska Constitution, and constituted bad faith dealing in violation of Alaska state law.

In late 2019, the Superior Court entered a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction prohibiting the State from implementing its new policy while the case was pending.  On the parties’ subsequent cross-motions for summary judgment, the Superior Court granted ASEA’s motion in its entirety, denied the State’s motion, awarded ASEA more than $186,000 in damages, and permanently enjoined the State from taking any further action to enforce its unlawful policy.

The Superior Court’s summary judgment order can be found here.  The Superior Court’s prior Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction Order can be found here and here.  And ASEA’s summary judgment briefs can be found here and here.