FAIRBANKS — The United States Supreme Court ruled Wednesday in favor of allowing public sector workers to stop paying certain union fees. Now workers unions in Alaska are reeling from the news and what this could mean for local unions.
In the Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees case, the court ruled that requiring Mark Janus, an Illinois child-support worker, to pay union fees violated his free speech rights and was therefore unconstitutional.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Wednesday’s ruling stands to affect an estimated 5 million government workers in 22 states who could stop paying such fees, known as “fair share” fees.
Eickholt said his union expected the decision and has worked to prepare but possible effects remain unknown.
“I believe most of the unions have been preparing for this with our members. It’s all really fresh and we’re still just waiting to see,” Eickholt said. “We have a smaller percentage of public employees in our union so the impact to us isn’t as bad. We feel we have a pretty strong memberships and we’ll be able maintain our members.”
TK Kleiner, executive director of the Public Safety Employees Association, said this was not the result she would have wanted but one that she expected.
“I think it will affect the entire labor movement nationwide. It’s strikes a blow on labor and it is a very partisan decision,” Kleiner said. “This is undoing established labor history that has been established for decades. I think it’s a really bad decision but I think since Neil Gorsuch joined the Supreme Court there have been a number of really bad decisions.”
Kleiner will be in Fairbanks today visiting union members and talking with city planners. This is a big change, but the work must go on, she said.
Pete Ford, business manager at the Alaska Public Employees Association, said this decision leaves a big question mark for public worker unions in the state now.
“It’s certainly going to have an impact on us. The whole concept of fair share fees for people who opt for whatever reason out of the union has been discontinued,” Ford said.
Ford said the APEA has notified public employers and requested the cease of all fair share fee collection.
“But that, for us, is a reduction in income and reduction in resources to represent members,” Ford said. “We’ve been working for years to prepare for a possible ruling of this nature, re-establishing rapport and membership but now we find out to what degree the impact will be.”
Jordan Adams, assistant business manager for the state Public Employees Local 71 Union said this ruling weakens the voice of the American worker.
“We’re fighting for wages and benefits here and workers rights,” Adams said. “This is kind of a push in the wrong direction in this case.”
Adams said moving forward is going to be challenging.
“We’ve had a really strong membership here in Alaska,” Adams said. “But this is going to be a total change of pace as far as the decision making process. It’s definitely going to be a hiccup. It’s disappointing, but it’s a time for our membership to band together to kind of recommit to their union.”
Gov. Bill Walker spoke out against the decision in a statement Wednesday, noting it creates an unnecessary obstacle for working people.
“I stand with the many Alaskans who are disappointed by today’s Supreme Court decision in the Janus v. AFSCME case,” Walker said in a statement. “This creates an unnecessary obstacle for working people to join behind a unified voice.”
Walker said he was confident that public employee unions will remain “the backbone of our state for the foreseeable future.”
“Nothing in this decision changes the respect we as the State of Alaska have for the role labor unions play in the operation of state government,” Walker said in a statement.
Hello PSEA Members,
This is Meagan Carmichael, Acting Executive Director with PSEA. I would like to update the PSEA membership about current events around the state:
PSEA Health Trust — The next health care trust meeting is scheduled for April 25. Trustees will discuss employee contribution rates for FY 2019, the possibility of consolidating with a larger health trust to reduce health care costs for our members, as well as discuss other options, such as self-funding. PSEA members covered by the trust would have to vote on any proposed consolidation before it takes effect.
State Health Care Negotiations — The next negotiations for state health care reopeners is Friday, April 13. At the prior meeting on March 22, PSEA proposed the state pay for 80% of the costs of the health care plan, and members pay 20%. The state prefers a set monetary amount for contributions (currently $ 1555) instead of a percentage, but they have not made a specific contract proposal yet.
Legislative Priorities — The PAC committee has been lobbying in Juneau for administrative options to address the recruitment and retention crisis, relying on the DPS Recruitment and Retention Plan Overview for support. The regular session ends April 15, 2018.
Ketchikan Police Department Health Care Negotiations — Ketchikan members are comparing PSEA health trust costs with the City of Ketchikan health care plan, to determine any potential cost savings. Ketchikan, Fairbanks, DPS and APFO employees are currently covered by the PSEA health trust.
Juneau Police Department Contract Negotiations — The City will meet in Executive Session on Monday, April 16, to get parameters and direction from the Assembly for wage reopeners. The City and PSEA have made substantially different proposals for wage increases for the final year of the contract.
Unalaska Department of Public Safety Contract Negotiations — PSEA completed contract negotiations for the Unalaska Department of Public Safety in about 3 days (April 4-6). The City agreed to a 10% wage increase for Unalaska members, effective July 1, 2018. The City also agreed to new retention bonuses for employees with 8, 10 and 12 years of service ($8,000 for 8 years, $10,000 for 10 years, and $12,000 for 12 years), as well as new education incentives. The City recognizes the significant recruitment and retention challenges for remote, and expensive,
Dutch Harbor, and it chose to invest in public safety infrastructure, as a responsible public employer. Thank you for all the hard work ofthe PSEA negotiating team to make this happen!
Soldotna Police Department Court Case — PSEA recently prevailed on a termination case from 2014, regarding a Soldotna Police Officer. In January of 2018, the Superior Court granted PSEA’s motion to dismiss the City’s appeal, so the City is responsible for paying PSEA’s court costs. The City is required to reinstate the officer with back pay and benefits, and the officer returned to work in March of 2018. PSEA will have a member meeting at the Soldotna Police Department on Tuesday, April 24, at 4pm. Food and drinks will be provided.
Fairbanks Police Department Court Case — PSEA is currently waiting on a decision from the Alaska Supreme Court, regarding an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) complaint that we filed against the City of Fairbanks. We expect a decision by March of 2018. The Alaska Labor Relations Agency, and the Fairbanks Superior Court, both found the City did commit a ULP. PSEA also filed a separate lawsuit against the City for breach of contract, but that lawsuit is on hold, pending the Supreme Court decision on the ULP. PSEA will have a member meeting at FPD on Monday, April 16, at 6pm. Food and drinks will be provided.
PSEA Member Meetings — PSEA is holding member meetings around the state, to provide updates, listen to concerns, and answer questions, as well as asking members to voluntarily sign maintenance of membership cards. We are asking members to sign the cards, to volunteer to pay dues, even if no longer required to do so after the Janus Supreme Court decision comes out in June of this year. The next member meeting is on Monday, April 16, at 4pm, at the Fairbanks AST post. We are also meeting on Tuesday, April 17, at 6pm, with the Fairbanks APFOs.
We are meeting with Soldotna DPS members on Tuesday April 24, at 7pm, at the Soldotna AST post. Food and drinks will be provided. Member meeting dates and times are also posted on the “events” section of our website. (www.psea.net)
Thank you for everything that you do to keep Alaska safe. Thank you for taking the time to review this information. Please contact me with any questions or concerns.
Acting Executive Director
DPS Board has the following vacancies:
Bethel Representative (2yr term)
Western Representative (2yr term)
Kenai Representative (2yr term)
Palmer Representative (2yr term)
Kodiak Representative (2yr term)
Southeastern Vice President (3yr term)
South Central Vice President (3yr term)
A DPS Area Rep has the following responsibilities:
– Main PSEA contact for local members
– Assist with getting member notifications to local members as issued by the PSEA office staff
– Assist new local members with PSEA initial paperwork and give PSEA orientation upon hire
– Attend DPS Chapter meetings, including teleconferences and board meetings at the PSEA Office in Anchorage
– Be the voting voice for your area’s members’ best interests
If you know of someone you would like to nominate or if you would like to nominate yourself, please respond to this email or give me a call and let me know. An election will be held for the nominees that have accepted their nomination. The election will be open to all DPS members, not just your local area. A notice will be sent out to inform members of the election while it is occurring.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Ashlea at PSEA at 907-337-1979 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
**** Deadline for Nominations is March 22nd, 2018 ****