SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH – Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined a coalition of attorneys general, led by the State of Kansas, in submitting an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in Alaska v. Alaska State Employees Association. The States urged the Court to hear a case that involves First Amendment rights for members of public-sector unions.
The Alaska case follows a 2018 decision from the U.S. Supreme Court in Janus v. AFSCME, which ruled that union dues could not be withheld from nonmember public employees “without clear and compelling evidence that employees knowingly and voluntarily waived their First Amendment rights.” In a collective bargaining agreement with the Alaska State Employees Association (ASEA), the State of Alaska “provided notice of First Amendment rights directly to all state employees and required those employees to inform the state directly of their waiver and agreement to have union dues and fees automatically withdrawn from their paychecks.” The Alaska Supreme Court ruled that the State’s due diligence in this agreement exceeded the earlier Janus decision because Alaska sought the waivers from both members and nonmembers of the union.
In their brief, the attorneys general make two arguments. First, that “Janus’s reasoning extends to all public employees – including union members – and requires clear and compelling evidence of a knowing and voluntary waiver of First Amendment rights.” Second, that “[t]he federal appellate courts that have addressed Janus’s applicability to union-member public employees have uniformly failed to recognize Janus’s applicability.”
The States write, “This is an issue that affects all public employers, including the amici States, school districts, municipalities, and any other public employer in this country that negotiates labor agreements with a public-sector union. Until this Court resolves this issue, public employers, like amici States, remain stuck between a rock and a hard place, at risk of a lawsuit but unable to take concrete actions to ensure their employees are knowingly and voluntarily waiving their First Amendment rights.”
Joining Utah and Kansas in the brief were the States of Alabama, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia.