The Center Square

Alaska Workers Sue State, Union Over Alleged Janus Violation

March 16, 2020

(The Center Square) – Two state employees filed a federal lawsuit against the Alaska State Employees Association/AFSCME Local 52 and Kelly Tshibaka, in her official capacity as Commissioner of Administration for the state of Alaska, alleging they violated the provisions established by the Supreme Court Janus v. AFSCME ruling.

The plaintiffs, Linda Creed and Tyler Riberio, who say they are being forced to pay union dues against their will, are being represented by the Alaska Policy Forum and the Liberty Justice Center, the nonprofit law firm representing Janus in the landmark 2018 U.S. Supreme Court case.

“The Supreme Court ruling is meant to protect people like me, who want to work in public service but don’t want to belong to a government union. But the union is blatantly violating my rights and refusing to honor the Supreme Court’s ruling,” Linda Creed, an environmental health technician for the State’s Department of Environmental Conservation, said. “It’s been nearly two years since the Janus ruling, and I’m amazed that the union can keep taking my money when they clearly know I don’t want to be part of the union.”

The Supreme Court ruled in Janus that government employees cannot be required to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment and that union dues cannot be deducted from employees’ paychecks unless an employee “affirmatively consents” to paying union dues.

Last August, the state Attorney General issued a written opinion concluding that the state “will need to significantly change its payroll process by obtaining ‘clear and compelling evidence it has the employee’s consent before deducting union dues and fees.’”

Within a month of the opinion, Gov. Michael Dunleavy issued an administrative order directing the Alaska Department of Administration to create an initial opt-in program where unionized state employees can delineate online or in written form if they agree to have union dues deducted from their paychecks.

Within weeks of the order, the union secured a restraining order from a state court judge preventing it from being implemented.

After the Attorney General issued his opinion, Creed and Riberio resigned from the state union. Creed contacted the Alaska State Employees Association (ASEA) to resign her membership and revoke her union dues authorization. Within a few hours, the ASEA refused her request. But after the state administrative order was issued, one paycheck deduction of $60 was halted. After the trial court intervened, union dues were once again taken out of Creed’s and Riberio’s paychecks.

“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,” an attorney at the Liberty Justice Center, said. “The Supreme Court was clear in Janus; it’s time for unions to honor workers’ rights and respect their decisions.”

“The Alaskans in this case made it very clear that they wanted to end their union membership, but they were forced back into the union,” Bethany Marcum, executive director of the Alaska Policy Forum, added, noting that state employees “were forced to file a federal lawsuit just to have their First Amendment rights recognized.”

The lawsuit, Creed et al., v. ASEA et al. was filed on March 12 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska.

Prior to the Janus ruling, public employees appointed to Alaska’s “general government unit positions” were required as a condition of employment to contact an ASEA/AFSCME Local 52 office within 10 days of their hire.

Citing the First Amendment, the Supreme Court held in Janus that government employees cannot be required to pay dues or fees to a public sector union as a condition of employment, and no money can be deducted by employers for public sector unions “unless the employee affirmatively consents to pay.”

Mark Janus was employed by the state of Illinois and required to pay union fees to AFSCME even though he didn’t join and didn’t support their causes. He has since filed a lawsuit seeking to collect the back dues he was required to pay.