On Thursday, September 26, 2019, Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy signed an executive order which protects Alaska government employees’ First Amendment rights in accordance to the Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision. It mandates that state agencies obtain an affirmative and knowing waiver of any worker’s First Amendment rights prior to deducting any union dues or fees from their paychecks.
Staff attorneys from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation won the 2018 Janus decision, which ended the practice of compulsory union dues for public employees and made the deduction of union dues from employee’s paychecks without their consent a First Amendment infringement.
National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix praised Alaska’s defense of public employee’s First Amendment rights:
Every American employee deserves the right to choose, free of coercion or manipulation, who will be his or her voice in the workplace. The Supreme Court in Janus extended this freedom to all public sector employees, and Alaska took a major step forward yesterday in protecting the First Amendment rights of state employees recognized in Janus.
Alaska is proactively ensuring workers are not relinquishing their First Amendment rights absent the clear and knowing voluntary waiver required by the Janus precedent. We urge other states to follow Alaska’s lead and prioritize the constitutional rights of state employees under the Janus precedent.
Janus was argued and won by staff attorneys representing the Foundation in 2018. A few days after the ruling was made, Foundation Legal Director Raymond J. LaJeunesse sent a letter to the previous Alaska Department of Administration Commissioner Leslie Ridle and 20 other payroll managers in states that force government employees to pay union dues urged them to abide by the decision by ceasing payments unless employees knowingly gave a waiver of their First Amendment right to not fund union activities. The letter alludes to the Supreme Court’s decision which explicitly stated that a waiver of such rights “’cannot be presumed[,’ r]ather, to be effective, the waiver must be freely given and shown by ‘clear and compelling’ evidence.”
LaJeunesse’s letter also threatened to bring “a civil rights action seeking class-wide injunctive relief” to state comptrollers who did not comply with Janus. So far, Foundation staff attorneys have filed more than 30 lawsuits seeking to uphold workers’ rights under the precedent established by Janus.