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5 Alaska State Troopers sue over union dues

Posted: January 10, 2013 - 1:07am

JUNEAU — Five Alaska State Troopers are suing over the way union dues are collected, arguing the current system infringes upon their constitutional rights.

The federal lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Alaska, states that even though the five are non-union members, they still pay dues. The lawsuit states that employees who do not opt-out of the current system wind up paying full dues, including those that go toward political purposes. Employees who do opt out must do so annually, and the process is skewed in favor of the union, not the worker, according to the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, which is representing the troopers.

The state and union “have structured employee choice on union fee payments in such a way as to make it more difficult for employees to retain their political autonomy than it is for employees to forfeit their money to the union for its political purposes,” the lawsuit states. “They do this by setting the ‘default’ as public employees’ support for union political, ideological, and other nonbargaining activities, as opposed to their not wanting to support such activities.”

The objection procedure “is overly cumbersome and therefore is unlawful and constitutionally inadequate, including, but not limited to, its requirement that employees disclose their Social Security numbers as a condition of objecting,” the lawsuit states.

The defendants are the Public Safety Employees Association; the commissioners of the state departments of public safety and administration; and the director of the state division of personnel and labor relations.

A spokeswoman for the state Department of Law said Wednesday morning that the agency had not received a copy of the complaint and could not immediately comment.

The plaintiffs are listed as Robin Benning, Patrick Scott Johnson, Andrew Neason, Chris A. Terry and Ken VanSpronsen. Anthony Riedel, a spokesman for the National Right to Work foundation, said all five are current state troopers.

Since they are not formal union members, they have a right not to pay the part of union dues used for union politics, lobbying and member-only events, the foundation said.

Benning and Johnson had previously sued over the dues collection issue, according to the lawsuit. That case was settled and the two got refunds, Riedel said.

What they and the others now seek is a change to the default setting to the opt-out option, Riedel said. The lawsuit also seeks unspecified compensatory damages.

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