Alaska State Employees Association AFSCME Local 52 has hired former Department of Administration commissioner and state Sen. Jim Duncan to serve as its business manager.
ASEA represents between 7,500 and 8,000 state employees and is Alaska's largest state employee union. About 2,000 ASEA members live in Juneau.
ASEA spokesman Reber Stein said the union is the collective bargaining unit for general government employees such as clerks, biologists and administrators.
Duncan, 60, was selected by the 11-member ASEA Executive Board and began work on Wednesday. He takes over from assistant business manager and union lobbyist Fate Putman, who has been acting business manager since September.
"The state of Alaska faces difficult decisions in the coming months and years and state employees must be treated fairly and with respect as those decisions are made," Duncan said in a prepared statement.
ASEA's main office is in Anchorage. Duncan said he will continue living in Juneau but will travel often.
As chief spokesman for the union, Duncan enters the position in the midst of negotiations over union contracts set to expire on June 30. Duncan did not reveal any details about the status of the negotiations but said he would meet with the administration this weekend to discuss the contracts.
The union recently challenged plans by Gov. Frank Murkowski to transfer permitting authority of the Department of Fish and Game's Habitat Division to the Department of Natural Resources. Duncan said the union still is trying to assess the impacts of the executive order on ASEA's membership.
ASEA's previous business manager, Chuck O'Connell, resigned last year, citing an inability to work with the union's new executive board. Other top managers also left after internal conflicts.
Despite the volatility, Duncan said he is ready for the job.
"I expect that this will be a very challenging position, but I'm not one to shy away from a challenge," he said.
Duncan served as a Juneau Democrat in the state House of Representatives from 1974 to 1986. He served in the state Senate from 1986 to 1999. From 2000 to 2002 Duncan served as commissioner for the Department of Administration, which oversees contract talks with state workers' unions.
Timothy Inklebarger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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