ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A labor union is suing the Alaska governor’s administration to halt the privatization of the state’s main psychiatric hospital, officials said.

The Alaska State Employees Association has filed court paperwork seeking a restraining order in state superior court to block the administration of Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy from turning over management of the Alaska Psychiatric Institute to Wellpath, a Tennessee company, Alaska Public Media reported Tuesday.

The privatization plan introduced in February has been criticized for bypassing a competitive bid process and for federal complaints filed against one of two companies that merged to form the Nashville corporation.

The Alaska State Employees Association represents about 8,000 workers, including 211 employees of the psychiatric hospital in Anchorage who could lose their jobs under privatization, said Jake Metcalfe, the union’s executive director.

The hospital is currently operated by the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.

The union’s actions are based on what it perceives as a breach of labor laws affecting employees, Metcalfe said.


“The state has gone ahead and signed a contract with a private employer and not given our members the contractual rights that they have, or the opportunity they have to show they can do the job cheaper and provide a better service,” Metcalfe said.

The administration cannot comment on pending litigation, said Dunleavy spokesman Matt Shuckerow.

Arguments are expected to be heard in court before the end of next week, the union said.


Information from: KSKA-FM,