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Right-Wing Freedom Foundation Literally Going Door-to-Door to Bust Unions in Washington State

Freedom Foundation union-busting

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The Guardian writer Steven Greenhouse has broken a story about door-to-door union busting in the state of Washington, led by the right-wing Freedom Foundation.  The group sent out activists to visit more than 10,000 home health care workers and advise them that the Harris v. Quinn Supreme Court decision means they can opt out of their unions. 

This next level union-busting technique seeks to weaken unions by undermining their financial viability. Washington is becoming more progressive in terms of the minimum wage and ordinances such as Seattle’s Uber organization, so the right is upping their anti-worker ante in kind.  

From the Guardian piece:

Labor leaders say never before have they seen a foundation undertake such an aggressive, multi-pronged campaign against unions; nor have they ever seen such canvassing to advise workers about quitting their unions. Labor leaders predict that if the foundation succeeds in weakening public-sector unions in Washington and Oregon, conservatives will roll out similar campaigns in Illinois and Pennsylvania. Labor officials say the foundation is part of a nationwide conservative, dark money network, with the Koch-backed State Policy Network, a 50-state free-market group, helping to finance the foundation.

The foundation’s tactics go well beyond door-knocking. It has made public records requests to numerous counties to obtain the names and addresses of home-care and childcare aides. It does podcasts that rail against unions and sponsors a website,, telling public-sector workers they can quit their unions.

Last December, the foundation sent activists dressed as Santa Claus to stand outside government buildings, where they told workers they could give themselves a holiday gift by exercising their right not to pay that portion of union dues that goes to political activity. The foundation has also filed myriad lawsuits and complaints against public-sector unions, challenging everything from their ability to speak to newly hired government employees to their failure to file all required political spending reports.

“I have to give them credit, they’re pretty nimble,” said Greg Devereux, executive director of the Washington Federation of State Employees, part of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (Afscme). “They get to attack all day long. They don’t have to be for anything. It’s fun for them to go after SEIU [Service Employees International Union], the Washington Education Association [a teachers’ union] and Afscme. We’re three of the major political players in the state, and they get to attack 24/7, 365 days a year.”

Unions are attempting to counter these efforts by informing members of their rights and reminding them of the benefits of union membership.  As evidenced by the Guardian piece, the actions of the Freedom Foundation go beyond that of a group targeting workers in Washington state and reveal the grand theater of big business’ war on workers.  Just as they have attempted to pass local “Right-to-Work” in Illinois and Kentucky, the State Policy Network has used its dark money ties to coordinate with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) on door-to-door union-busting across the country.  The actions being taken in the Pacific northwest, if successful, could be replicated in the midwest:

Unions are so concerned about the foundation’s efforts that they have created a new organization, the Northwest Accountability Project, that seeks to expose and discredit the foundation. It, too, has made hard-hitting videos, and it has gone house to house in Tom McCabe’s neighborhood to distribute flyers attacking him as an extremist. The Accountability Project has also made disparaging robocalls to McCabe’s neighbors and church congregants.

McCabe says the foundation is misunderstood – and wrongly vilified. “The focus that we have is on helping union members, informing union members that they have a constitutional right to leave their union if they wish,” he said.

It is difficult to take McCabe at face value, however, given his history:

In a fundraising letter last August, McCabe indicated that his foundation’s goal was indeed to defund and defeat public-sector unions – in part to undo Democratic control in the north-west.

“Labor bosses are the single greatest threat to freedom and opportunity in America today,” he wrote. “By taking money from hard-working, dues-paying Americans, they’re funding a broken political culture in states like Oregon and Washington.”

His fundraising letter added: “The Freedom Foundation has a proven plan for bankrupting and defeating government unions through education, litigation, legislation and community activation.”


One Comment on “Right-Wing Freedom Foundation Literally Going Door-to-Door to Bust Unions in Washington State”

  1. People do not want to be bothered in their homes, but the union will not stop harassing and intimidating people until they submit.
    I have talked with people who have changed their phone number and no longer answer their door because of the union.

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