Alaska Supreme Court Rejects Alaska Executive Branch’s Attempt to Stop Honoring Union Members’ Dues Deduction Agreements

On May 26, 2023, the Alaska Supreme Court issued an opinion affirming a judgment in favor of Alaska State Employees Association (ASEA) in State of Alaska v. ASEA, Supreme Court No. S-18172, ruling that the Alaska executive branch violated the State’s collective bargaining agreement with ASEA and multiple state statutes when in 2019 the State announced it would stop honoring public employees’ voluntary union membership and dues deduction authorization agreements. Altshuler Berzon LLP has represented ASEA throughout this case, in both the superior court and state Supreme Court.

The Anchorage Superior Court had granted a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against the State’s plans, and subsequently granted summary judgment to the union, holding that the State and members of the executive branch had breached the State’s contract with ASEA and the accompanying covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and had violated multiple provisions of Alaska’s Public Employment Relations Act (PERA) and Administrative Procedures Act (APA). The superior court also rejected the State’s argument that it was required to violate state law by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 decision in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31. The State then appealed to the Alaska Supreme Court.

In its published opinion, the Alaska Supreme Court rejected all the State’s arguments about Janus and affirmed the superior court’s rulings that the State breached its contract with ASEA, the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and three separate provisions of Alaska’s PERA statues. The Court declined to reach other issues because they were unnecessary to affirm all the relief granted to ASEA, including damages of about $186,000 and a permanent injunction prohibiting the State from implementing former-Attorney General Kevin Clarkson’s “opinion” letter regarding Janus and Governor Mike Dunleavy’s Administrative Order 312, which had directed the State to stop honoring union members’ dues deduction authorization agreements.

The opinion is available here

A prior news post about oral argument in the case is available here.