Court blocks Dunleavy union rule change. For now.

The Alaska State Employees Association sign on the ASEA office window. (Photo by David Purdy/KTOO)

An Alaska Superior Court judge has temporarily blocked Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration from implementing a new rule affecting the state’s public sector union.

The move is a victory for union groups that say the state is overreaching in its interpretation of the law in an effort to weaken unions.

At issue is Alaska Attorney General Kevin Clarkson’s recent announcement that the state will pursue an aggressive interpretation of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus decision from last year. The case was a major blow to public sector unions nationwide, ruling that employees who do not want to be part of a union can opt out and pay no dues.

In August, Clarkson issued an opinion that went a step further, saying that public sector unions cannot be trusted to inform employees of their rights to opt out, and therefore the state should be in charge of handling union membership and dues.

In his ruling, Superior Court Judge Gregory Miller agreed with the Alaska State Employees Association that the rule change means serious harm for the organization, and issued a temporary restraining order against the state’s proposed changes.The ruling also criticizes some of the rationale in the state’s argument about why the changes are necessary.

The order means the status quo in the state’s relationship with the union is maintained until the litigation moves forward.

“This is a victory for all Alaska workers,” said Jake Metcalfe, executive director of ASEA. “It is clear this is a political agenda to rob workers of their freedom to come together for a voice on the job.”

According to the union, ASEA represents 8,000 workers in Alaska.

“We are disappointed with the ruling, though we will, of course, abide by the court’s order,” the Alaska Department of Law said in a statement Thursday afternoon. “The State will continue to pursue the case to get final resolution on this important constitutional question.”

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