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Once Again Frontline Workers Are Saving Us

A message from our Executive Director Peter Starzynski about the fires across the Pacific Northwest:

I write to you from Montana, where my wife and I have evacuated our home with our two young children to escape the hazardous smoke and terrifying fires in Oregon. There are people in our family with respiratory issues, so we decided to depart when the smoke rolled in, and we were asked to prepare for evacuation. We’re shaken but safe, grateful for our health and refuge. We’re tired but aware of our privilege as the fires have wreaked havoc on so many lives.  It was nerve-racking to flee our home, with uncontained fires closing in, but our family’s safety, as for most people, is our biggest priority.

Catching my breath for a moment, both figuratively and literally, I am filled with gratitude and amazement for how the people in our state have come together. Our first responders and frontline workers are sacrificing so much to help quell these ravaging fires. Our communities are answering the call to rise up to volunteer and donate to the greater good. However, there are still others, right on queue, who promote unfounded conspiracy theories to forward a political agenda. But they aren’t worth the few breaths we all have left.

We should all focus our attention on working families, especially public workers like firefighters, the Sheriff’s office staff, Department of Transportation staff, forest management specialists, public health staff, and all government workers working day and night to protect the rest of us.

These are the same government workers who some have maligned and denigrated for decades because a cabal of right-wing organizations has spent billions propagating anger at their wages, healthcare, retirement benefits, and voice on the job.

The Northwest Accountability Project exists to expose these extremist groups that try to push divisive agendas and propaganda. These groups are trying to cut the pensions of firefighters and other public workers, slash their “lavish benefits” and “handsome salaries,” and regularly accuse public sector workers of lying, coercion, and corruption. They are bankrolled by billionaires like the Devos family, the Waltons, and the Koch brothers who simply want to pay less in taxes and hoard more wealth.

Those on the front lines today are our neighbors and friends and deserve not only our gratitude but good compensation and adequate protections on the job. They need unions.

Our organization will continue to fight for all working families in the Northwest, and I send a deep thank you to those protecting our communities from the horrific fires. We’ll continue to call out any outfit or front group that seeks to denigrate public workers’ critical work.

As we approach more days of uncertainty, please know that we’re thinking about you all and all of those affected. If you’d like to help support organizations caring for those impacted, displaced, or injured by the fires, please see our links below:

Stay safe. In Solidarity,

Peter Starzynski
Executive Director
Northwest Accountability Project

Anti-Worker Groups Are Cashing In On COVID Denial

Until recently, President Trump was cheerleading the idea that our nation’s COVID-19 pandemic was no big deal, and that it would be over soon. Even though he secretly knew the virus was dangerous and highly contagious, he tried to “play down” the severity of the virus, mocked those who wore masks, and guffawed at the idea of ever wearing one himself. That changed in July as either reality or his desperate advisors finally got through to him, and he donned a mask for his visit to the Walter Reed military hospital.

He has not been alone in his COVID denialism, as a ten-minute viewing of FOX News will attest. But in the denial crowd, there is a particularly noxious subset that risks public health by claiming the pandemic is a mere conspiracy and hopes to make money while doing it. Trump seems to have reluctantly moved on, now focused on sowing division in the streets, but other COVID deniers are staying the course to cash in.

A far-right conspiracy club called The John Birch Society, based in Appleton, WI, is warning their readers that the pandemic is a cover for ushering in “a new world order.” They warn that the scheme, orchestrated by a globalist group of Deep State elites, will bring about dominance by technocratic elites, with “royalty and mass-murdering communist tyrants” already on the bandwagon. Writers at the Society insist masks don’t stop the virus anyway, and shutdowns aren’t necessary. They ask for donations and membership dues to help their fight against the “COVID overreach” that supposedly threatens all of our freedoms.

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Cut from the same cloth as The John Birch Society, over on the West Coast, an extremist group calling itself the “Freedom” Foundation is running a fundraiser based on similar denials of the pandemic. The donations fuel frivolous lawsuits against the safety measures we can all take to slow down the virus’s transmissions, such as wearing masks. Or as one “Freedom” Foundation attorney described the safety measure, “junk science.” Meanwhile, a complaint has been filed against the group for not following state laws about employee or visitor safety. While their staff accuses the state health department of “deceiving the public,” the national director urges kids back into school before it’s safe because apparently, COVID is no worse than the flu. Nevermind the 187,000 (and growing) dead Americans.

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The bounty of cash raked in from the COVID denial populace may have inspired one of the right-wing “Freedom” Foundation’s clients. Slidewaters, a water park in a county that just saw 179 new COVID infections in the last two weeks, has been fighting against state-mandated safety orders for months, insisting they know best how to keep people safe. Disregarding the possibility of their park becoming a potential virus super-spreader with thousands of customers, they remained open until they were fined by the state, leading the owners to decry “Big Government and overreaching politicians preaching the need for a Utopian society…” A notice of the fine is posted on their GoFundMe page.

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As our society grapples with a once in a century health crisis, it’s so disappointing to see groups like these leading in the wrong and dangerous direction. Getting through this pandemic and reopening our economy requires us to work together to stay safe and follow health experts’ advice to keep the curve down, not jockey for personal gain like the John Birch Society, extremist “Freedom” Foundation, and Slidewaters.

The “Freedom” Foundation is Violating Oregon’s Workplace Safety Laws

Complaint Alleges Anti-Masker Group is Willfully Violating Oregon’s Workplace Safety Measures

Salem, OR – The Northwest Accountability Project (NWAP) has filed a complaint with Oregon OSHA after observing the staff of the “Freedom” Foundation, an anti-masker organization, violating workplace safety laws. This includes the requirement that employees distance while at work and wear a face covering. A similar complaint was filed in Washington State.

In July, the so-called “Freedom” Foundation sued the states of Oregon and Washington over mask requirements. The cases are still pending but unlikely to result in anything.

“Mask requirements and social distancing are the law of the land, and the “Freedom” Foundation staff, like the rest of us, need to follow the law,” said Peter Starzynski, Executive Director of the NWAP, a watchdog organization that closely tracks extremist groups in the Northwest.  “Safety measures are in place to protect vulnerable populations and frontline workers.”

The complaint points to multiple violations that were tracked by NWAP at their office in Salem, OR where staff were seen not wearing face coverings as they sat at their desks merely a few feet apart.

“These violations are clear and they’re irresponsible,” continued Starzynski. “Even though the organization and their staff have fully embraced the junk science being spread on the internet, masks and social distancing save lives. This is about protecting workers, including frontline healthcare workers, whose health they jeopardize by ignoring the science and violating the law. Just because the “Freedom” Foundation doesn’t care about these workers doesn’t mean the laws don’t apply to them.”

Staff and leadership of the “Freedom” Foundation have been known to post on social media about not wearing masks.

Currently, Oregon has nearly 27,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 465 deaths. Nationally, more than 185,000 people have died of COVID-19 as of the writing of this press release.

The “Freedom” Foundation is a political organization trying and failing to destroy unions and help elect extreme, right-wing politicians, in violation of their 501(c)3 tax-exempt status. More recently they have joined the chorus of Covid deniers, presumably to curry favor with right-wing activists as their anti-union campaign bottoms out.

Additionally, they have a history of skirting the law. A judge recently ruled the “Freedom” Foundation pay $80,000 for a campaign finance violation in Washington State and the Washington Attorney General has called them a “repeat offender of our campaign finance laws.”

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The Northwest Accountability Project is a watchdog organization dedicated to shining a light on extremism and the moneyed special interests that attempt to bring an agenda of hate and division and advocates on behalf of working people in the Northwest. The organization does not coordinate with candidates or party committees. 

Is the Washington Policy Center Promoting Democratic Socialism?

The faux “think tank” Washington Policy Center (WPC) has launched a new, head-scratching campaign to combat the “evils” of democratic socialism. They are enthralled with a simplistic fantasy where the government is always bad, and laissez-faire (unfettered) capitalism is always great. It is not a surprising hallucination, considering much of their funding comes from the billionaire class who would love nothing more than to abolish taxes and gut programs that help working families. “Free market” equals freedom for the uber-rich, at the expense of just about everyone else.

And while they claim to be non-partisan, WPC’s actual “policy” recommendations don’t hide their billionaire funders’ priorities very convincingly. Their healthcare “policy” idea is to eliminate tax-exempt employer-based health insurance. Their education “policy” is to privatize and defund public education. Their environmental “policy” is to cut trees faster. But they don’t ever, ever want to see a tax on Washington’s ultra-rich.

Back in April, WPC could barely hide their excitement about a new project they would launch that would turn the tide on American youth increasingly becoming socialism-curious. (Something needed to be done!) These self-anointed Defenders of the Dollar hired a hip marketing agency that gave them “the firepower to fight back against socialism” and “target the youngest generations in Washington.” Reading this, you probably get the same awkward, funny feeling when we first heard: hmm, this can’t possibly go well. And guess what, you’re right.

Much like their last decade of stale, obviously corporate-sponsored policy recommendations, their new “campaign” is hilariously myopic and shot through with falsehoods plus generous copyright infringement.

Here are the top 7 fails from the first week of their ill-fated “Free Markets Destroy” campaign. A huge thank you to WPC for some badly needed laughter during this extraordinarily difficult year.

#1. Free Markets Destroy is the most baffling name for an “anti-socialism” campaign possible, and their Facebook followers agree.

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Okay, you want to get young people to love free markets. So what positive word can you associate with it? Create… Energize…Win! Nope. They decided DESTROY had the upbeat tone they were looking for. It was an epically confusing launch for WPC, where even their most ardent fans on Facebook were putting their palms to face. Or worse yet, accusing WPC of being “socialist dimwits” themselves.

#2. “Borrowing” trademarked Wal-Mart, Pfizer, and Tesla logos for the campaign.

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One of two things is going on here. Either the titans of corporate America are co-sponsoring this campaign, or the Washington Policy Center has blindly co-opted these logos to sell t-shirts and promote a suspiciously anti-capitalism message on billboards. As one of their confused fans on Facebook said, “what moron is paying to put that up.” In conclusion, WPC is either a corporate shill or infringing on intellectual property – perhaps they will clarify this.

#3. Using billowing, carbon-emitting smokestacks to illustrate how the free market is destroying climate change.

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To us, and most people, it sure looks like that factory is destroying the environment, with very colorful acid rain falling all around. Continuing their theme of “let’s always pick the wrong thing in this campaign,” they used a dystopic factory spewing smoke to symbolize improving Earth’s health. Thank you for fixing our climate crisis, carbon-emitting factories?

#4. Hey children, we have the perfect solution for your boredom – get working.

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Really, how do you explain the photo choice here? These Industrial Age youths are thanking the mill boss for keeping their minds occupied? In fact, “free market” factory owners often preferred child labor because kids were viewed as more manageable, cheaper, and less likely to strike. In conjunction with labor unions, it was anti-sweatshop groups that finally helped the passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938, regulating minimum ages of employment and hours of work for children. It took federal legislation to let kids go back to being kids.

#5. Mischaracterizing the Rev Martin Luther King, Jr. as a free-market champion.

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In their campaign launch video, WPC shows a woeful ignorance of history by using King’s image to support their flawed narrative. Many modern-day conservatives like to gloss over Dr. King’s radical economical views and admiration for labor unions. He would likely despise the WPC’s work, especially being deployed as a prop in their marketing. King wrote in 1967:  “Cap­i­tal­ism has often left a gap of super­flu­ous wealth and abject pover­ty [and] has cre­at­ed con­di­tions per­mit­ting neces­si­ties to be tak­en from the many to give lux­u­ries to the few.”

#6. Using other historical figures to push an “either/or” fallacy about innovation.

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In the same video, the WPC held up other innovators as proof that free markets rule and big, lousy government better stay out of the way. The only problem is that each of the innovators they show worked with the government on their path to success. An undergraduate of public Montana State University, scientist Maurice Hilleman went on to be a federal employee at the Walter Reed Army Hospital for almost a decade. There he began his extraordinary career in vaccine development. Even later, when he worked for Merck, he coordinated with the FDA and local public health offices to test and distribute the vaccines. Agriculturist Norman Borlaug, also a graduate from a public university, got his start at a Mexican government grain institute called CMMYT. With funding from the Mexican Secretariat of Agriculture, Borlaug developed high-yield, disease-resistant wheat that provided food security. WPC’s promo film even features Elon Musk, whose company Space X has received billions in NASA funding for their work. Public higher education and/or federal funding was vital for all of these innovators’ success.

#7. Thinking that groovy graphics are going to get you the youth vote.

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Listen, WPC: while we appreciate all the energy that went into your “radical” graphic design, you are on a fool’s errand. You’re worried that young Americans are enthusiastic about socialism, but let’s help spell it out a bit. Young people are buried under academic debt and overwhelmingly earn wages that won’t pay the rent or their healthcare bills. They want respect, safety, and fair pay on the job. They may have lost health insurance when they got laid off during the pandemic. They can’t conceive of how they’re going to afford to buy a home. They are in an economic crisis, yet all you keep pushing are ideas to strip the government of tools to help them while ensuring the rich become even wealthier. Tired of waiting for wealth to “trickle down,” the youth who you so desperately want to “target” with your messaging, are never going to buy what you’re selling.

#BONUS. To be fair, WPC’s campaign IS getting some traction in political circles…

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The lowly 6th place finisher in the 2016 Republican primary, Jeb Bush knows plenty about a campaign falling flat. During his campaign at a convention event, he memorably asked the audience to “please clap” when they met his speech with silence. Resurfacing earlier this month from the “where are they now?” file, he showed up on Twitter to applaud the Washington Policy Center. Such high-level celebrity endorsement must feel nice after the utter confusion and general lack of clapping from the rest of WPC’s followers. Please retweet?

PRESS RELEASE: Complaint Alleges the Freedom Foundation is Violating Washington’s SafeStart Workplace Safety Measures For “Essential” Businesses

For Immediate Release
August 27, 2020
Peter Starzynski, Executive Director

Complaint Alleges the Freedom Foundation is Violating Washington’s SafeStart Workplace Safety Measures For “Essential” Businesses

Olympia, WA – The Northwest Accountability Project (NWAP) has filed multiple complaints with Washington State, alleging the “Freedom” Foundation is violating workplace safety laws for “essential” businesses, a status they were surprisingly granted earlier in 2020. This includes the requirement that employees distance while at work and wear a face covering.

“Mask requirements and social distancing are the law of the land, and the so-called Freedom Foundation is not above the law,” said Peter Starzynski, Executive Director of the NWAP, a watchdog organization that closely tracks extremist groups in the Northwest. “Safety measures are in place to protect vulnerable populations and frontline workers. We call on the Freedom Foundation to act responsibly in compliance with the law and protect our frontline workers.”

The complaint points to multiple violations that were tracked by NWAP at the Freedom Foundation’s headquarters in Olympia when numerous staff, including the head receptionist, were seen not wearing face coverings as they interacted with each other and an NWAP representative. It also points to multiple videos they have made and published showing their staff, and members of the general public, sitting close to each other, without wearing masks.

“The violations are clear, and the ramifications could be deadly as the virus rampages through our communities,” continued Starzynski. “Groups like the Freedom Foundation are abusing state laws and putting our workers at great risk. It is wrong and needs to stop.”

Currently, Washington has more than 75,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and nearly 2,000 deaths. Nationally, more than 180,000 people have died of COVID-19 as of the drafting of this press release. The “Freedom” Foundation was given its “essential” business status in March, which forces them to comply with Washington’s laws for “essential” businesses. In July, they sued Washington State because of mask requirements. That case is still pending but not likely to result in anything.

The “Freedom” Foundation is a political organization that has spent more than $20 million trying and failing to destroy unions to help elect extremist politicians in Washington State, in violation of their 501(c)3 tax-exempt status. They have a history of violating the law. A judge recently ruled the “Freedom” Foundation pay $80,000 for a campaign finance violation and the Washington AG has called them a “repeat offender of our campaign finance laws.”

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The Northwest Accountability Project is a watchdog organization dedicated to shining a light on extremism and the moneyed special interests that attempt to bring an agenda of hate and division in the Northwest. The organization does not coordinate with candidates or party committees.

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