Judge extends pause on Dunleavy administration’s attempt to change union opt-in procedures

An Anchorage Superior Court judge on Tuesday issued a preliminary injunction that will continue to halt Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s effort to establish new opt-in procedures for state workers joining unions, as arguments in the case between the state and the Alaska State Employees Association advance.

Judge Gregory Miller said the injunction extends the earlier pause, known as a temporary restraining order, that he placed on the governor’s plans on Oct. 3, according to the new, two-page order. Miller also issued a second order Tuesday rejecting the state’s request for a final judgment in favor of the state.

ASEA called the decisions “good news" in a prepared statement: “Alaska Superior Court Judge Miller has granted a full preliminary injunction against the state’s attempts to interfere with our members, violate our contract and violate state law.”

Maria Bahr, an assistant attorney general for the state, said in a prepared statement on Tuesday that “the Department of Law is still in the process of reviewing the order issued today by Judge Miller.”

She provided no additional comment.

The case has drawn national attention, after the governor’s proposal put Alaska at the front of a national debate over union power, workers’ rights and free speech.

[Gov. Dunleavy thrusts Alaska into a leading national role as he takes on Union procedures]


The Alaska State Employees Association, representing about 8,000 members, sought the decisions from the judge.

Miller’s temporary restraining order in October blocked the governor, Attorney General Kevin Clarkson and Administration officials "from taking any actions to implement” the governor’s Sept. 26 administrative order.

The administrative order would require all unionized state employees to opt in by communicating with the state if they want to continue being union members. The administration had stopped automatically deducting union dues for about a dozen employees who said they no longer wanted to be part of ASEA.

Union officials called the efforts an illegal, overreaching attempt to hurt their organizations, and a violation of collective bargaining agreements the state signed with unions.

Clarkson has said he’s not trying to dismantle unions, but wants to protect workers’ rights to free speech while complying with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 Janus decision. The decision said employees must “clearly and affirmatively consent” to pay union dues before the dues are deducted from paychecks.

In a second five-page order also issued on Tuesday, Miller rejected the state’s Oct. 7 request that he deny the preliminary injunction and issue a final judgment in favor of the state.

Miller wrote that the state offered “no legal authority" for its “novel argument" that it should be granted a victory, after it lost in the initial stage involving the temporary restraining order, and offered no new arguments at the preliminary injunction stage.

“The state has argued that it intends to pursue this matter on appeal,” Miller wrote. “If so, ASEA, like any other party in any case, is entitled to have a final determination on all its claims.”

Jake Metcalfe, executive director of ASEA, on Tuesday called the state’s case “frivolous." He said the governor needs to end his ideological battles against state employees who are focused on providing public services.

“We’re confident we’ll prevail in the end,” he said.

Alaska Attorney General Clarkson could not be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon. He previously called the temporary restraining order a “speed bump — in a much longer legal battle which will likely reach the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Miller called for additional arguments to be filed by Nov. 18.

Alex DeMarban

Alex DeMarban is a longtime Alaska journalist who covers business, the oil and gas industries and general assignments. Reach him at 907-257-4317 or alex@adn.com.