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Sun Dec 6, 2020, 03:15 PM

Alaska Voices: Dunleavy makes Alaska a hostile place

By Vince Beltrami
Vince Beltrami is the executive president of the Alaska AFL-CIO, Alaska’s largest and oldest federation of labor unions.

What would you say if your daughter, sister or best friend confided she had received inappropriate text messages from a supervisor — comments on her appearance, invitations for late night drinks at his home, questions about whether her children slept in her bed? What if she received 558 such messages and they were accompanied by not just heart emojis but unwanted physical touch? What if she said she had repeatedly tried to brush off these advances (tactfully, because she couldn’t afford to lose her job) but the harassment continued? For months.

Your first reaction would likely be anger and very possibly fear for her safety. Then you would immediately urge her to notify her supervisor’s boss. This is exactly what an unnamed state worker did this spring when Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s former attorney general, Kevin Clarkson, launched a barrage of texts, hair-stroking, hugs and kisses. First, she approached the governor’s chief of staff, Ben Stevens, who told her to keep quiet. She had a meeting with Gov. Dunleavy himself, too, after which he took no action. (Only after the story was reported this fall by local media did Clarkson resign.)

Unions have a name for the kind of willful neglect demonstrated by Gov. Dunleavy and his top advisors: contributing to a hostile work environment. It didn’t surprise me that the governor was unmoved by his employee’s personal and professional suffering and the gross imbalances of power that eventually made her leave a job she needed and loved. After all, his tenure had been marked by a hostility so extreme that Alaskans are in the midst of an effort to recall him.

From the moment Dunleavy took office the disdain for his own employees was on full display. Demanding fealty pledges from exempt longtime dedicated state employees, firing of those whose political ideology he disagreed with, or simply firing employees for activities they engaged in outside of work foretold how callous the incoming administration was determined to act when it came to dealing with state employees.

Read more: https://www.peninsulaclarion.com/opinion/alaska-voices-dunleavy-makes-alaska-a-hostile-place/

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