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Seattle Times

The Freedom Foundation is Coming for Your Members

A look at the anti-union group that is knocking on doors to convince union members to stop paying their dues

Brian Young's picture
Jan 17, 2018

A meeting of the minds took place this week between labor leaders representing almost all major industries, including but not limited to education, law enforcement, construction trades, and every job that you could think of that serves the general public. Trump’s Janus vs AFSCME is being heard on February 26th and all the leaders in the room are fairly confident that the Supreme Court will find in favor of Janus and make RTW a national law for public employees. We here at UCOMM along with the rest of the unions in the nation warned members that voting for the very charismatic Trump would eventually eliminate their right to bargain. Unfortunately, 40% of union members didn’t listen and we are all about to take a big bite out of a big shit sandwich. At this meeting, organizers discussed the infiltration of the Freedom Foundation, a group dedicated to manipulating union members into not paying their dues and convincing them that going-it-alone is the best for them. So I asked Brian Young to find out what he could on this group since they will be the ones knocking on your doors, sending lit and making calls to take away your voice at work. The Freedom Foundation’s sole mission is to lower wages and benefits for working people in America. No more, no less. -Kris LaGrange

With Janus set to be heard before the Supreme Court on February 26th, a group of anti-union vultures are beginning to reach out to union members to urge them to stop paying their dues. The Freedom Foundation has one goal, destabilize organized labor and take away your voice in the workplace.

The Freedom Foundation began in 1991 but started making waves following the Harris v. Quinn decision. Formerly the group was focused on conservative economic issues like cutting taxes, but in 2013 they brought in Tom McCabe as their CEO and began using community organizing tactics to turn the organization into an aggressive anti-union and anti-worker group. With funding from national conservative groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Koch Brothers, they have expanded and become a major anti-union force. For two decades, the Freedom Foundation only existed in the Northwest, becoming an anti-union powerhouse in Oregon and Washington. Now with Janus set to be decided in the coming months, they have begun expanding. According to union leaders in New York, members have begun receiving mail and calls from the group.

Unlike other anti-union groups, the Freedom Foundation actually spends the time and money to knock on doors and make home visits. So what can a union member expect in the coming months? First, they will get direct mail, advising them that they have the right to leave their union. Then they will begin getting calls saying the same thing. Finally, someone in a suit will begin knocking on your door, looking very official, members say they look like a regulator or lawyer. They will then try and sit down with you to try and convince you to leave your union. On top of this, they use their dark money from the Koch Brothers to do podcasts where they attack unions and try to convince you to opt-out of your union. They also take part in street theatre. In 2015, the foundation sent activists to local government buildings in the Northwest dressed up as Santa with a simple message “Give yourself a holiday gift by leaving your union.” The group is also litigious, filing numerous lawsuits challenging unions’ rights.

“They get to attack all day long,” said Greg Devereux, executive director of the Washington Federation of State Employees in an interview with The Guardian in 2016. “They get to attack 24/7, 365 days a year.”

WFSE/AFSCME has encouraged their members to post this at their houses so the Freedom Foundation knows that they are not welcomed.

Over the last few years, The Freedom Foundation has gotten very good at what they do. Just like long time union organizers, they know how to speak to members and poison the well. In Washington State, the foundation convinced 600 child care workers to stop paying their dues to SEIU Local 925 following Harris.

With the Freedom Foundation setting their eyes on some of the most heavily unionized states in the country, local unions need to get back to their roots and organize. Over the past decades, unions have shown that grassroots organizing works, so much so that anti-union groups are now doing it. Janus will be a war for unions and the Freedom Foundation will be leading the opposition on the doors, on the phones and through the mail.

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