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The Koch Brothers’ Agenda in Oregon

Privatizing public services, cutting corporate taxes and slashing wages and benefits for workers

 

Anti-worker and Corporate Donors are using a collection of front groups to try and destroy unions in our state. Get the facts about who they are and their true agenda.

WHO ARE THEY? These organizations market themselves as “think tanks” and operate under several names such as: “The Freedom Foundation,” “Opt Out Today” and “Oregon Ponzi Scheme.” The Freedom Foundation/Opt Out Today are trying to launch aggressive campaigns in at least five states, including Oregon. They’ve even gone to Oklahoma telling lawmakers that teachers don’t deserve raises.

WHAT’S THEIR AGENDA?

  • Reduce or cut public services, such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security
  • Privatize public services
  • Cut public employees pensions and health care so that they can cut corporate taxes

Opt Out/Freedom Foundation’s ultimate goal is to privatize public services and eliminate public sector jobs. They believe that if they can reduce public sector union membership, they will reduce a powerful voice for public services and cut corporate taxes. In other states, where unions are weaker than Oregon, there are private prisons, outsourced highway services, and unqualified contractors doing the work of public employees.

They were also part of the coalition that tried to slash public employee PERS benefits by more than 40% in 2017.

WHO FUNDS THEM? These groups receive millions from corporate donors including the Koch Brothers. These donors have advocated against raising wages, funding for education, cutting Medicare and Medicaid and want to silence the voice of working families – all in an effort to make themselves richer.

Documents were recently obtained by the Guardian which shows the Freedom Foundation/OptOut Today is part of a national network of radical “think tanks,” who are trying to launch sophisticated campaigns to mislead public sector workers into dropping union membership and reduce their ability to stand up against privatization and cuts to pensions and healthcare benefits. In Oregon, public employees have already received the “Opt Out” mailer revealed in the investigation.

THEIR LEADERS HAVE PUBLICLY BASHED WORKERS. The Freedom Foundation says state employees are overpaid and don’t work enough. A top Freedom Foundation staffer recently wrote a column in the Bend Bulletin claiming taxpayers are footing the bill for “public employees’ handsome salaries and lavish benefits.” The truth? The Freedom Foundation has no idea what it means to work in public service. They have no idea how committed and hardworking union members in our state work every day. And when firefighters, teachers, and other public workers tried to call him out on his anti-worker views, here’s how a lead Freedom Foundation staffer responded:

THESE GROUPS WANT TO SILENCE THE VOICES OF WORKING FAMILIES. The Freedom Foundation’s Tom McCabe has said that public sector unions should not have the right to collectively bargain for better pay, benefits and working conditions. These groups want to destroy unions and are seeking to divide and weaken unions in an effort to enrich their wealthy donors.

ARE YOU A UNION MEMBER?
Stand up to those who would cut your pay and benefits and privatize your job. So far Opt Out/Freedom Foundation have failed and people are standing together in their unions. But they have deep pockets. If the Freedom Foundation gets its way, all workers will suffer because unions won’t have the ability to negotiate for better pay, benefits, and working conditions for everyone.

Tell the Freedom Foundation that Oregonians don’t buy their lies: we know that the Freedom Foundation does not represent Oregon’s workers or values.

Jami Lund Heads to Oklahoma to Talk About Undermining Educators

The Freedom Foundation and their very own self-described “top scholar” of education, Jami Lund, recently bragged about a trip to Oklahoma to give advice to legislators about undermining striking educators. As has been widely reported, educators from West Virginia to Oklahoma have taken matters into their own hands because of chronic underfunding of schools and inadequate compensation. In Oklahoma, schools are wrought with shoddy supplies and broken down classrooms while the state ranks dead last in teacher compensation.

Apparently, the Freedom Foundation isn’t too concerned about these facts, which isn’t surprising. What is surprising is that they would openly brag about their nefarious mission to Oklahoma. While they have been trying desperately to convince workers they are on their side, we have been exposing their history of opposition to issues that help working people like minimum wage increases, paid sick leave for all and increasing education funding. When Lund or his cohorts take a trip like this, it only helps further our mission of shining a light on their anti-worker agenda.

This isn’t the first time they’ve accidentally revealed their true colors. Last year they signed onto a coalition with other radical right-wing groups calling for cuts in public workers retirement benefits. When it was exposed, they quickly removed their name from the coalition, and now the entire website seems to be gone.

Good thing we know how to take screenshots and were able to capture a picture of the Freedom Foundation’s endorsement:

The State Policy Network (SPN), the Freedom Foundation’s national network, doesn’t help their deceptive efforts either. A recent article in the Guardian highlighted leaked documents from the SPN containing tips on how to undermine striking educators. This paragraph is pulled right from the article:

“Top of the list of talking points is the claim that ‘teacher strikes hurt kids and low-income families’. It advises anti-union campaigners to argue that ‘it’s unfortunate that teachers are protesting low wages by punishing other low-wage parents and their children.’”

The Freedom Foundation has been trying to deceive workers in Washington and Oregon for a few years now. They have invested millions in trying to strip workers of their hard-fought gains but workers are just not buying it. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that union membership in Oregon and Washington rose in 2017 and the main union targets of the Freedom Foundation are seeing increased revenues since their attacks began.

The Freedom Foundation can’t hide their true agenda of trying to cut wages, slash benefits, and fight education funding increases while trying to make it harder for workers to organize. If the Koch brothers want to send someone to deceive workers in Washington and Oregon they better look to another organization.

Hey, New Seasons, There is No Excuse for Funding Hate

Last month, the Northwest Accountability Project launched a campaign calling on New Seasons Market to distance itself from the hate group funding Murdock Charitable Trust.

New Seasons is majority-owned by funds managed by Endeavour Capital. Since 2000, the Murdock Charitable Trust has invested millions in Endeavour Capital funds– including the funds which own New Seasons. This means profits from New Seasons enrich the Murdock Trust – and the Murdock Trust is no friend of working people or the LGBTQ community.

They have given millions of dollars to a wide array of anti-LGBTQ hate groups and anti-worker organizations.

One of these groups is the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) a notorious anti-LGBTQ organization which the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated a hate group. They push anti-trans legislation throughout the country and their founder, James Dobson once questioned whether AIDS was one way God punishes the LGBTQ community. Another group is the extremist Freedom Foundation, a billionaire-funded group that opposes minimum wage increases, paid sick leave and fair scheduling laws.

Our campaign has garnered significant media attention including published pieces in the Portland Business Journal and the Stranger. At the launch of our campaign, a queer identified New Seasons employee even spoke out against their employer’s connection to the Murdock trust.

So what has their response been? You would think that a grocery store that claims to “lead with [their] values” and support LGBTQ rights would take a stand against Murdock and the hateful causes it funds. But no. New Seasons just parroted the Murdock Trust’s own excuses and failed to offer a word of condemnation for the hateful and reactionary organizations Murdock funds. Some could interpret their response as a downright acceptance of the Murdock Trust and their funding. Here are a few examples:

New Seasons internal message to workers:

 

New Seasons internal message to workers

From Reed Coleman, Staff Engagement and Communications Manager at New Seasons Market:

Message from Reed Coleman, Staff Engagement and Communications Manager at New Seasons Market

A letter directly from Stephen Babson, New Seasons board member and Managing Director of Endeavour Capital:

A letter directly from Stephen Babson, New Seasons board member and Managing Director of Endeavor Capital

New Seasons had the opportunity to stand with its workers and the LGBTQ community throughout the Northwest. Instead, they made excuse after excuse. Well, there is no excuse for funding hate. The destruction that organizations like the ADF causes to the LGBTQ community is inexcusable.

If New Seasons wants to be Portland’s progressive grocer, they need to rethink their approach to the Murdock Trust and cut ties with them. Sign our petition to tell New Seasons to #DropMurdock.

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.

Transparency Hypocrisy

The Freedom Foundation makes a lot of claims about supporting government transparency, but the truth tells a different story. The Freedom Foundation’s standard for supporting so-called “transparency” seems to be based on whether it will benefit their wealthy out-of-state donors at the expense of working families in the Northwest.

What the Freedom Foundation is hiding

For a couple of years now, Freedom Foundation lobbyists have been passing around a cookie-cutter resolution that called for contract negotiations between workers and management to be open to the public, even though the public already gets input in the contract negotiation process. This resolution was similar in nature to resolutions circulated by national, corporate-funded organizations like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

For those of us who know the Freedom Foundation, their platitudes on transparency were clearly a farce. At no time did they call for transparency in contracts with corporations or management staff not represented by a union.

Additionally, when the Washington state legislature recently considered a bill that would ensure the public knew the funders of any pro-bono legal services to their cities or counties, the Freedom Foundation fought tooth and nail against it. The extremist organization and its allies went as far as to argue that the proposed bill was part of a union revenge plot and conspiracy, yet they conveniently failed to acknowledge that the proposal applied to both conservative and progressive groups alike.

Their advocacy against the bill was entirely selfish because the bill would have impacted the Freedom Foundation and they are scared to death of living up to their own calls for transparency.

It’s simple

The Freedom Foundation does not actually care about transparency. They care about attacking working people on behalf of their wealthy donors. And because of hypocrisy like this, they have lost their credibility amongst legislators when it comes to matters of public policy.

If the Freedom Foundation actually cared about transparency, they would disclose their donors when their lawyers represent a city or county government but most importantly, they would propose policies that are fair to everyone, not solely focused on attacking working families.

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