If you haven’t read the temporary restraining order from Superior Court Judge Gregory Miller to stop Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s attacks on Alaska’s state workers, you should.
It’s a beautiful articulation of why Alaskans of every stripe are joining the effort to recall our bad governor and why. In the meantime, the governor should fire Attorney General Kevin Clarkson.
Everything this governor does is wrong, and Clarkson is his favorite tool for trying to get it done.
During his electoral campaign last year, Dunleavy specifically promised not to cut money from the Village Public Safety Officer program, the court system, public education, Power Cost Equalization, Pioneers’ Homes, senior benefits, the Marine Highway System and the University of Alaska.
He proved himself a liar by cutting each of them within months of being elected, and then he targeted everyone who has stood against those cuts to dismantle the institutions that Alaskans count on.
It gets worse. Recently, Gov. Dunleavy, through Attorney General Clarkson, attacked the First Amendment rights of the state’s public workers and Alaska Hire.
Alaska Hire was carefully crafted nearly 60 years ago and has been embraced by every governor since. The policy requires employers to fill 90% of jobs with Alaskans in specific areas with high unemployment. It was put forward to prevent employers from shipping in an unlimited number of low-cost workers from out-of-state.
Attorney General Clarkson said in his announcement that Alaska Hire is unconstitutional, but it seems likelier that he and Dunleavy are less concerned with the rule of law than with their corporate donors who want cheap labor and don’t care about Alaska’s working families who are living with 6.3% unemployment, the highest unemployment in the nation.
Alaska Hire is well established, and it protects thousands of Alaska families. For decades, 1 in 5 Alaska workers has lived out-of-state, according to the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development. It’s a number that would skyrocket without protections for local workers.
Every governor, regardless of political affiliation since 1986, has understood the importance of local jobs and has used the narrowly tailored rule to protect them. Now, without justification, Clarkson claims this widely supported law is unconstitutional.
It’s hard to take Clarkson’s statements seriously about what’s constitutional when you consider his blatant disregard for Alaska’s bedrock constitutional protections.
For example, over the past year Dunleavy misused public money by spending it on partisan expenses such as electronic advertisements and direct mailers with partisan statements about political opponents and supporters. He violated the separation of powers by improperly using the line-item veto to attack a court ruling he doesn’t like.
As attorney general, Clarkson signed off on each of these terrible moves, which shows how poor his judgment is.
Speaking of which, there’s that opinion from Judge Miller. The judge, appointed by a Republican, carefully and systematically knocked holes in every one of Clarkson’s arguments for his novel interpretation of how the state should comply with Janus v. AFSCME, which came down from the U.S. Supreme Court almost two years ago and with which the state has already been complying and has been doing so in a way that’s been basically identical to every other state in the country.
Clarkson argued the state needed to change the way it complied with the Janus case to protect the free speech of state workers. The judge didn’t buy that empty argument, either.
In page after page, Judge Miller smacked down Clarkson’s arguments.
If there’s one state worker whose job shouldn’t be protected, it’s Clarkson’s. He’s a disgrace, and his poor legal judgments are costing Alaskans precious state funds. Oh, and Clarkson is also paying an Outside law firm almost $600 an hour to attack the people who pilot the ships of the Marine Highway System and the folks who take care of our parents and grandparents in the Pioneers’ Homes.
And then Clarkson said he couldn’t justify defending Alaska Hire because of the expense.
How does that make sense?
That brings me back to Dunleavy’s baffling abandonment of Alaska’s working families. With so many Alaskans looking for work, why would he drop Alaska Hire?
You’re getting weak advice from a bad lawyer, governor. Get rid of Kevin Clarkson.
Vince Beltrami is president of the Alaska AFL-CIO.