The Truth About the Freedom Foundation

A couple weeks ago, the Seattle Times published an op-ed from the anti-worker Freedom Foundation on an issue that impacts working people in Washington State. We think it’s important for their readers to understand the full context of the Freedom Foundation’s existence and why they are not a credible voice on issues impacting labor. The Freedom Foundation poses as a non-partisan think tank but in reality, they’re a billionaire-funded, political organization with a national agenda that is tied to the Koch brothers. Whether you agree with SB 6199 or not (or don’t care), you have to take the Freedom Foundation’s opinions on this matter or any matter regarding working people with a grain of salt.

They are an affiliate of the State Policy Network (SPN), an anti-union national network of more than 60 organizations that have an agenda of turning blue states red by destroying unions. Tied to the SPN is a national network of foundations including the Bradley Foundation in Wisconsin, the Sarah Scaife Foundation in Pennsylvania, the Walton Family Foundation in Arkansas (Yes, the same Waltons that own Wal-Mart) and the Koch brother-funded Donors Trust, all of which contribute directly to the Freedom Foundation.

Their controversial CEO is Tom McCabe, a right-wing Washington political operative who once headed the Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW). McCabe was ousted from that job because he overspent the organization’s resources on failed rightwing candidates and causes and racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees for campaign finance violations. After his departure from BIAW he took his crusade to the Freedom Foundation where he set his sights on unions in the form of public records requests for worker’s personal information. These included home addresses and birthdates which they used to badger workers at their homes about their union participation.

This reckless abuse of public records laws put union members and their families at risk of identity theft and possible harassment.

The Freedom Foundation claims to support union members but workers easily see through this façade. The Freedom Foundation regularly opposes laws that help working people including minimum wage increases, paid sick leave for all and fair scheduling laws. They even advocated for cutting the retirement plans for some workers.

But most importantly, the Freedom Foundation’s efforts are failing. Under no reasonable measurement can you interpret unions to have any less power in Washington and Oregon than they did when McCabe took the reigns of the Freedom Foundation. Even in the aforementioned op-ed, Mr. Nelsen uses a common Freedom Foundation refrain about union members quitting their union dues and this leading to a decline in union revenue citing his organizations own numbers. But he fails to mention a few key points: first, according to the Bureau of Labor statistics, union membership went up overall in Washington and Oregon in 2017. Second, according to the Department of Labor reporting, the membership of the unions targeted most by the Freedom Foundation are steady and in some cases, they are rising while revenues across the board on the rise. And finally, according to a 2017 Gallup Poll, unions are seeing their highest level of support nationally since 2003.

The growth in unions in Washington and Oregon is likely because unions have made great strides for working people in the last few years including passing landmark minimum wage increases, paid sick leave for all and fair scheduling.

But just because the Freedom Foundation is failing, it does not mean they should be given a pass. Our local elected officials need to hold the Freedom Foundation accountable for their reckless actions and abuse of the law.

The attacks on working people are real as they always have been. Unionized workers have long faced the wrath of the richest few. The Freedom Foundation’s attacks are similar to attacks on unions throughout all of American history — it just seems they are far worse at union busting than their predecessors.