Begich, Walker slam U.S. Supreme Court decision on public unions

Mark Begich and Gov. Bill Walker.

Before the U.S. Supreme Court dominated everything in today’s news cycle, it was also making headlines for dealing a major blow to public-sector unions.

The ruling in Janus v. AFSCME makes it so government employees who decide not to join a union can’t be required to pay dues for the cost of collective bargaining. The 5-4 vote overturns 40-year-old precedent and upends laws in 22 states, including Alaska, that required such contributions.

Both Gov. Bill Walker, an independent, and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Begich released statements critical of the decision. Both candidates have supported and been supported by unions in the past and will both be looking for their support this time around.

Walker released a longer statement on the decision through the governor’s office.

“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 prepared statement. “This creates an unnecessary obstacle for working people to join behind a unified voice. Still, I am 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.”

Begich released his statement via tweet, but it also showed allegiance to organized labor.

“Today’s Supreme Court decision undermines working families in Alaska and across the country. Unions make the entire workforce stronger, safer, and drive the economy,” he wrote.

With tight attention on the three-way race for governor–which at this point likely favors a Republican–there will likely be a high amount of pressure for one or the other candidate to withdraw before the final deadline.

Organized labor could likely have a role in that decision because, after all, it did in 2014.

Alaska AFL-CIO President Vince Beltrami is largely credited with helping form the 2014 unity ticket between then-gubernatorial candidates Walker and Democrat Byron Mallott.

He also sounded off on today’s decision, saying the state’s unions will continue to fight for the rights of the employees it represents.

“Today, we commit to not only sustaining the labor movement, but building and strengthening it so more working people can negotiate a fair deal in return for their hard work,” he said. “Despite this decision, Alaska’s unions will continue to lead the fight for a balanced economy that gives everyone a fair shot.”

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