The Freedom Foundation’s Dinesh D’Souza Problem

The anti-worker Freedom Foundation/Opt Out Today has sunk to a new low by choosing bigoted pundit, Dinesh D’Souza, as the keynote speaker at their annual gala at the Hilton Bellevue in Washington on September 28. The Hilton should show better judgment in who they allow to speak at their facilities. We call on the Hilton to cancel D’Souza’s appearance.

D’Souza has made millions from his racist, homophobic, misogynistic, and anti-working class writings and movies. He has heaped praise on growing income inequality and the strife that working people endure. He opposes the Civil Rights Act, called President Obama a “boy” from “the ghetto”, said that American slaves were treated “pretty well” and African Americans behave differently from other races through negative behavior and dependency. In college, as the editor of the student newspaper, he publicly outed LGBTQ students without their permission.

He is so extreme that even other conservatives dislike him. He was once banned from CPAC (the Conservative Political Action Conference), the annual gathering of Republican ideologues, because he mocked teenage survivors of school shootings. Many conservative thought leaders have accused him of being at the center of the intellectual rot occurring on the right.

When the Freedom Foundation announced D’Souza as the keynote for their fundraiser, Freedom Foundation CEO, Tom McCabe said of D’Souza, he’s “…a perfect fit for the Freedom Foundation.” For once, we agree with McCabe’s assessment.

D’Souza follows 2017 keynote speaker, Andy Puzder. Puzder, as you may recall, is an alleged domestic abuser and accused wage thief who actively opposed minimum increases as CEO of Hardees/Carl Jrs. He was Trump’s first failed nominee for Secretary of Labor.

The anti-worker Freedom Foundation/Opt Out Today has two diametrically opposed messages: what they tell public workers and what they tell their funders.

The Freedom Foundation tries to convince public sector workers that they are better off without their union in the hopes that if enough people drop, the union will cease to exist. They fund this mission by raising money from a who’s who of out-of-state extremist billionaires who would like to see an end to labor unions — including the Koch Brothers, the Walton Family, and the Wisconsin-based Bradley Foundation. This poses a problem for the Freedom Foundation: On the one hand, they need to convince union members that they care about their well-being and on the other hand they need to convince their out-of-state funders that they are actively working to destroy unions, lower wages, and gut pensions.

Nowhere is this conflict more pronounced than their annual fundraising event. It’s why you won’t see any footage of the event or what is likely to be an outrageous and bigoted speech by D’souza and why they pay a private security detail to monitor the event. If the happenings of their gala were to ever reach actual working people, the Freedom Foundation’s lies would be exposed.

Meet Tom McCabe: The reckless, unethical, and failing leader of the Freedom Foundation

Tom Mccabe

Tom McCabe, the CEO of the extremist Freedom Foundation

When conservative ideologue Tom McCabe took the reins at the Freedom Foundation as CEO in 2013, he made his goal crystal clear: to utterly dismantle the power of working people in Washington and Oregon.

McCabe and the Freedom Foundation believe that if they take organized labor out of the picture, they can work with their right-wing allies to elect regressive, Republican candidates and push an extreme conservative agenda in the Pacific Northwest. McCabe’s vision has been made clear in a number of YouTube videos, fundraising documents, and on the Freedom Foundation’s own website.

Over the last four years, McCabe has spent countless resources — including staff hours and donors’ money — in a blatant effort to harass workers and coerce them to opt out of their union. He’s directed Freedom Foundation staff to aggressively obtain the names, home addresses, and other personal information of working people in order to contact them via mailings, social media, phone calls, and through door-to-door canvasses. Union members all across Oregon and Washington have reported incidences of Freedom Foundation staff visiting their workplaces unannounced, and even coming right to the doorsteps of their homes to harass and intimidate them. We even received reports that the Freedom Foundation lies about who they are (claiming they are union organizers) and that they’ve claimed that the union provided them with members’ contact information. These are all lies.

Despite McCabe’s rhetoric and outright disregard for the law and the privacy of workers, his efforts have been a complete failure. Union members have embraced their unions. And they’ve come together in an effort to protect themselves and their coworkers from the Freedom Foundation’s lies and efforts to badger them at work and at their homes.List of Tom McCabe's failures

A long line of failures

The failure of the Freedom Foundation’s “opt-out” campaign is yet another in a long line of their failures. To this date, they have not passed any significant legislation in either Oregon or Washington. Their local attempts at passing “right to work” laws have all failed, and Oregon, Washington, and California are all dominated by Democrats passing some of the most progressive pro-worker policies in the country. This includes historic minimum wage increases and paid sick leave… issues the Freedom Foundation vehemently opposes.

McCabe’s bigoted and dangerous staff

McCabe has stopped at nothing to try and salvage his right-wing, regressive vision for the Freedom Foundation. This includes putting worker’s safety at risk by sending poorly vetted staff members to interact with union members and their families. The Freedom Foundations’ Washington Field Director Matthew Hayward — who oversees union member outreach — has a violent criminal record. Hayward has even joked about bringing a gun with him to the homes of workers.

McCabe has also surrounded himself with staff who have made disturbing and derogatory statements about women, communities of color, and the LGBTQ community. One former staff member wrote on a personal blog, “We all know there were good slave owners and bad slave owners just like there are good dog owners and bad dog owners.” One staff member even called for the deportation of all Muslims.

A waste of donor dollars

But even after all of these efforts and all their money spent, McCabe’s campaigns have been futile. In fact, union membership is at record levels along the West Coast in recent years. This is particularly true of AFSCME, SEIU, and the educators unions, the unions the Freedom Foundation has tried to attack. Additionally, a recent Gallup poll showed that support for unions is at a 14-year high.

In addition to wasting donor money on harassment campaigns, McCabe admitted that the Freedom Foundation has spent millions of their donors’ money on legal defense because of their scurrilous activities. This is no surprise, considering McCabe’s history of racking up legal bills and wasting donor funds. When he was head of the Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW), McCabe got into hot water with members — predominantly builders and contractors — by spending millions on failed conservative candidates and causes, moving the organization to the extreme right and violating state campaign finance laws.

McCabe will fail again

Unfortunately, this time, McCabe’s unethical and nefarious tactics have jeopardized the privacy of workers and have subjected them to harassment. We have every confidence that McCabe will continue to fail and put the Freedom Foundation out of business.

Until then, we will continue to protect workers and will always be their advocate. And we will continue to shine a light on extremism by the Freedom Foundation and their right-wing ilk. No one deserves this kind of treatment from a bully like Tom McCabe.

Statement on the Supreme Court decision on Janus v. AFSCME

In light of today’s U.S. Supreme Court’s decision trying to divide workers, Peter Starzynski, Executive Director of the Northwest Accountability Project issued the following statement:

“Today, corporate interests won a victory in the U.S. Supreme Court and while many have referred to this case as a game changer or a deathblow for unions, the fact is that in the Northwest, unions have been facing these types of attacks for a few years from organizations such as the Washington based Freedom Foundation and it has made no serious impact. Despite a costly campaign of harassment and frivolous lawsuits by extremist, corporate-funded organizations, union membership is on the rise in the Northwest.

Since these attacks began, unions in the Northwest collectively have won the most progressive agenda in the country including minimum wage increases, paid sick leave for all, and fair scheduling laws. In addition, progressive, pro-union politicians have actually gained seats in state government.

We will continue to be vigilant in the face of attempts to weaken workers’ rights but in its entire context, The Freedom Foundation’s agenda has been a total failure. If it’s any sign of things to come, then unions in the Northwest should be just fine.”

Is the Freedom Foundation an anti-immigrant organization or just a band of bigoted extremists?

The Freedom Foundation has claimed they might be showing up at union members’ homes unannounced in the coming months. While we don’t know if this is actually true (They tend to stretch the truth about what their organization does), this should be a cause for concern for anyone who values the safety and well-being of our immigrant and non-white neighbors.

Leaders across the political spectrum have recently rejected the horrific practice of separating immigrant children from their parents, with some comparing it to the policies of Nazi Germany or Japanese Internment during World War II. Conservative former first lady, Laura Bush, wrote a scathing op-ed in the Washington Post lambasting the Trump Administration’s so-called zero-tolerance policy, and Cardinal Dolan, a leading conservative Catholic, blasted the practice, writing: “That’s just unjust. That’s un-American and unbiblical.”

While conservative leaders are lining up against the administration and placing the blame where it belongs, Matt Hayward, a lead Freedom Foundation staffer, blamed the migrant families themselves, writing on social media:  “The only people responsible for children being separated from their parents are the parents.” In the same post, he wrote: “Manipulative and delusional people use victimization as a tool to avoid or shift responsibility.”

As far as we know, Matt Hayward is in charge of the so-called “grassroots operation” of the Freedom Foundation in Washington. He has a history of violent behavior and rhetoric; Hayward was once convicted of a violent felony and has joked about bringing a gun to the homes of union members. With this in mind, his recent comments on immigrants and their children are even more chilling.

It’s not surprising that the Freedom Foundation would put a potentially violent bigot in charge of their canvass operation in Washington. We’ve documented their tolerance of bigoted canvasser, Jac Cates, their ties to white supremacists, their work with an anti-LGBTQ hate group and the time their former lead Oregon staffer opened a rally for anti-immigrant Sheriff, Joe Arpaio.

Former Freedom Foundation staffer Anne Marie Gurney at a rally for Joe Arpaio

The few legislative allies the Freedom Foundation has are a veritable who’s who of white supremacists and the alt-right. Take into account Rep. Mike Nearman from Oregon, a shameless white nationalist who seems to take great pride in threatening the livelihoods and rights of immigrants. As one of the leaders of the hate group Oregonians for Immigration Reform, Nearman has built his political career on alienating immigrant communities and using immigrants as a scapegoat for various societal problems.

According to the highly respected Southern Poverty Law Center, Oregonians for Immigration Reform is an anti-immigrant hate group focused on destroying immigrant communities’ access to basic civic protections and benefits like access to basic public safety. The SPLC had this to say about Nearman’s group:

“Founded in 2000, the McMinnville-based Oregonians for Immigration Reform (OFIR) is the most prominent anti-immigrant group in the state. OFIR presents itself as a group “advocating for an environmentally sustainable level of immigration,” but, for almost two decades OFIR has demonized immigrants while working closely with nationally recognized anti-immigrant groups and figures.  OFIR’s co-founders and current leadership also have longstanding ties to hate groups and a history of making racist statements.” (Southern Poverty Law Center, April 2018)

While the Freedom Foundation has never taken an official stance on immigration issues (as far as we know), the views of their lead staff, allies and friends in the legislature should give everyone pause as to what their agenda would be if they ever held any actual power in the Northwest. More immediately though, it’s of great concern as to what would happen if they knocked on the door of an immigrant family.

ZoomCare Medical Clinics and Bristol Farms Grocery Chain Enrich Anti-LGBTQ Investor

The Northwest Accountability Project is calling on ZoomCare (a Portland-based chain of for-profit medical clinics) and Bristol Farms (a Southern California grocery chain) to cut ties with the Murdock Trust, an investor that has spent millions funding extreme anti-LGBTQ organizations.

Bristol Farms (which also operates Lazy Acres stores) and ZoomCare are both partly-owned by private equity investors through funds managed by Endeavour Capital. The Murdock Trust has invested in every Endeavour Capital fund since 2000 and continues to profit off the growth of their companies.

Profits earned by Bristol Farms and ZoomCare enrich the Murdock Trust as it funds extreme anti-equality groups including:

  • The Alliance Defending Freedom, the anti-LGBTQ hate group that backed North Carolina’s anti-transgender “bathroom bill.”
  • The Portland Fellowship, the only organization in Oregon to offer gay conversion therapy. The Fellowship claims that same-sex attraction “stems from relational wounds and dysfunction.”
  • The Freedom Foundation, a billionaire-backed group that has worked to keep wages low, eliminate paid sick leave, and slash crucial funding for quality education.
  • Anti-choice “crisis pregnancy centers” which are known to masquerade as licensed medical facilities and lie to pregnant people in order to dissuade them from having abortions.

When community leaders in Seattle and Portland called on local Murdock-affiliated grocery chain New Seasons and Endeavour Capital to cut ties with the Murdock Trust, they refused to take action. New Seasons even claimed that the Murdock Trust “does not fund projects that contribute to discrimination of any kind.”

Since Endeavour Capital seems happy to continue enriching the Murdock Trust through investment partnerships, the Northwest Accountability Project is moving to extend its public education efforts to other Endeavour Capital-owned companies, including Bristol Farms and ZoomCare.

Join the campaign to hold these companies accountable.

Contact the CEOs of ZoomCare and Bristol Farms and tell them to cut ties with the Murdock Trust.

Sign up to learn more about the project.