Union Power Is Surging in Washington State, Another Sign of the “Freedom” Foundation’s Multi-Million Dollar Failure

Accountable Northwest has long documented the failure of the “Freedom” Foundation and their regressive allies to destroy unions and implement their right-wing, anti-worker agenda in the Northwest. The exclamation point came this week, as news outlets in the Pacific Northwest were lit up with stories detailing the surging power of unionized workers in Washington State and the many victories they’ve won in the Legislature.

The Seattle Times described how union members have mobilized to pass dozens of new laws since 2018 that buttress working families by enshrining equal pay, expanding voting rights, establishing prevailing wages, and protecting bargaining rights. Many of the benefits of these laws extend far beyond union members, such as Washington’s Paid Family and Medical Leave and the excise tax on capital gains that will expand early childhood care and education state-wide.

“If the American labor movement is dead, nobody told Washington’s unions,” wrote journalist Joseph O’Sullivan in the Times. “Washington has remained a strong outpost for labor, ranking fifth in the nation last year for union membership.”

Public radio stations KUOW and OPB, meanwhile, shared an article from the Northwest News Network entitled “Unions flex political muscle, secure wins under Democratic one-party rule in Olympia.” The piece credits expanded union membership in Washington as “fueled largely by the rise of public sector and service industry unions, like the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Other influential unions include the Washington Federation of State Employees and the Washington Education Association, the state’s teachers union.”

Announcements like this spell abject failure for far-right groups like the “Freedom” Foundation, who have been promising their out-of-state funders they would destroy unions to help Republicans get elected along the West Coast. Their leaders have openly admitted their ill-fated agenda time and time again. As now-CEO Aaron Withe explained, “our goal is to remove government unions’ influence on politics. One of the ways that we do that is by telling people they can leave their union.” 

Their President, Tom McCabe, described their mission in even more detail, “When I got to the Freedom Foundation – it was about 13 months ago – I told my staff, ‘we need to fight unions.’ Because unions have corrupted our state, they have ensured that we’re the bluest state in the country.” Now faced with an even more union-strong and “bluer” Washington, it couldn’t be more clear – the “Freedom” Foundation has wasted over six years and $30 million in the futile effort to destroy unions in the name of partisan politics.

It was in this harsh environment that the “Freedom” Foundation announced it was “expanding” into other states. But their expansion reads more like a retreat. They certainly didn’t find fertile ground here in Washington. But as the “Freedom” Foundation solicits funding from regressive wealthy donors elsewhere, what exactly can they promise? 

The group has been headquartered in Washington since 1991, yet union and Democrat power is exploding in their own backyard. The only thing the “Freedom” Foundation has succeeded at is pulling the wool over the eyes of far-off funders who bankroll their disastrous move into other states. If you owned a restaurant that was failing, it would be impossible to try and franchise it elsewhere, but that’s apparently not the case in far-right funding circles.