JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Alaska lieutenant governor hopeful Dan Sullivan said Wednesday he apologizes if he offended anyone with his use of the term "slavery" in comments he made about the payment of union dues.
But in a statement late Wednesday afternoon, the Republican and current mayor of Anchorage said he remains opposed to rules compelling mandatory union membership for certain work, which he referred to as a form of "economic slavery."
"To me, the term has no racial connotations except that people of all races may be prohibited from holding certain jobs unless they pay tribute to an organization they may not support," he said in the statement, released by a city spokeswoman.
The Anchorage NAACP had demanded an apology for the comments Sullivan made at a candidate forum Monday. At the forum, which also featured GOP rival Lesil McGuire, and Democrats Hollis French and Bob Williams, Sullivan was asked about right-to-work legislation, in which employees are not required to join a union to get or keep a job. According to a video of the exchange, Sullivan said he supported such legislation.
"Nobody should ever have to basically pay a fee to someone else to get a job in this state. I mean, we got rid of slavery a long time ago," he said. "You should never have to encumber yourself out of your wages in order to work in this state."
He called it a "freedom issue."
Anchorage NAACP President Wanda Laws said in a statement that to compare slavery to current political issues "diminishes how horrible and tragic" slavery was.
Sullivan told The Associated Press on Wednesday morning that he didn't think an apology was necessary. He said there are many forms of slavery, and he was talking about "economic slavery."