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BREAKING NEWS

Wash. State union members win important privacy victory against conservative group
November 01, 2017



Chronicle staff

(REGIONAL)  --  In May of this year the Sky Valley Chronicle reported that Washington State had a new distinction: it's one of the top targets for the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation’s plans "to dismantle unions and state laws protecting workers’ rights," according to reports from the Center For Media Democracy and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

According to those reports and TheStand.org, a labor news website, investigations into Bradley Foundation documents show that "the organization funded increased conservative infrastructure in 13 states, with its largest grants going to Colorado, North Carolina, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin."


In 2016, the foundation’s assets were worth more than $800 million.


The Bradley Foundation is based in Milwaukee. It refers to itself as a “charitable nonprofit,” yet much of its focus, according to labor groups and some news media outlets, "is on pushing a partisan agenda and expanding Republican control of government bodies by funding local right-wing media outlets and think tanks, anti-worker groups, and organizations to recruit conservative candidates," according to The Stand.org.


In Washington state, the Bradley Foundation granted $1.5 million over three years to the conservative "Freedom Foundation" with the purpose of “defund[ing] Big Labor,” because “Washington State’s liberal labor laws have long allowed it to be a net exporter of union dollars to other parts of the country,” according to proposals regarding the grant.


TheStand.org says examples of the Freedom Foundation’s "anti-union activities in Washington" include canvassing, mailing, and phone banking union members to get them to opt out of their unions and hiring a "Santa Claus" to leaflet state workers as they walked in and out of their workplace, encouraging them to stop paying full union dues.


So organized labor has been in a stand-your-ground fight with the Freedom Foundation and now a coalition of state worker unions has found itself with a significant court victory in its long-running feud with the FF, which has been trying to notify public employees of how they can opt out of paying some union dues.


A panel of three judges in Division II of the state Court of Appeals unanimously reversed a lower court ruling on Tuesday, saying workers in this state "have constitutional privacy protections that bar the Freedom Foundation from getting the names and corresponding birth dates of employees through public records requests," said a report in the Morning News Tribune.


The Foundation has been pushing hard, trying to get the names, emails and birth dates of state workers to send them information "about their options to avoid union fees."

The Foundation wants to cross reference the state’s voter registry with the names and birth dates of state workers in order to get access to home addresses for canvassing and mailers.

State unions have been trying to get an injunction to block the requests but so far have not been unsuccessful in that effort. 

But the appellate court ruled Tuesday that disclosure of those names and matching birth dates "gives no useful information to the public about how government is operating and could lead to identity theft and other potential difficulties for state workers," says the report which adds that the court's ruling says unions “have satisfied the requirements for an order granting permanent” Public Records Act injunctions. The result: the lower court’s decision refusing to grant a permanent injunction was nullified. The case now returns to Thurston County Superior Court for further proceedings."


More on the story here.





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