Alaska deals a blow to unions

We’ve covered plenty of stories from all over the country dealing with the fallout from the Supreme Court’s Janus v AFSCME decision. The ruling barred public-sector unions from automatically collecting dues or “agency fees” from non-member employees’ paychecks against their wishes and using that money for political speech the worker might not agree with. Since then we’ve seen workers suing to recoup dues and unions fighting to find ways around the ruling and keep dipping into employees’ paychecks.

Now the state of Alaska has stepped into this mess in hopes of clearing things up. Governor Mike Dunleavy (R) has ordered that the illegal dues collection come to an end, but he’s putting a new twist on how this is handled. (Free Beacon)

Public sector unions in Alaska will no longer be able to automatically collect dues from workers after Republican governor Mike Dunleavy instituted the nation’s first statewide “opt-in” system of unionization.

In 2018, the Supreme Court overturned decades’ worth of legal precedent that allowed public-sector unions to collect mandatory dues or fees from government employees. The 5-4 ruling in Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees said that such a practice impedes on the First Amendment rights of workers by forcing them to financially support political speech. In response to the ruling, states around the country allowed employees to opt out of union membership. Gov. Dunleavy went a step further on Thursday, signing an executive order that requires employees to affirmatively opt in to union membership before agencies deduct dues from their salaries.

This is definitely a new approach compared to what most states have been doing. For one thing, the Governor is imposing this rule via executive order. And then there’s the new default assumption when it comes to fee collection.

Typically, workers have been offered the option to “opt out” of these agency fees. But in those cases, a worker who fails to take proactive action will still wind up having dues taken out of their paychecks. Once this Alaskan plan goes into effect in December, the default assumption will be that no workers pay dues unless they proactively “opt in” to the unions.

Going one step further, the workers will need to renew their commitment to the unions and opt in every year going forward. If they no longer feel that their money is being put to use in a way that reflects their own views, no action is required. By simply failing to opt in for the next cycle, they must be dropped from the rolls and dues collection must end.

Of course, that relies on the unions actually going along with the plan and following the law. That hasn’t always been the case since Janus was decided. Some unions have blatantly continued collecting dues until a court slapped them down. Others have been enforcing “window periods” from old contracts, giving workers only one week out of the year to opt out of paying the fees. They’re doing this even though the language in the Janus decision specifically forbids such restrictions.

Right to work activists in Alaska will need to keep a close eye on how this system plays out next year. If the public sector unions up there are anything like most of the ones in the lower 48, they’ll only go kicking and screaming into obeying the law.