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The Real Reason Why The Freedom Foundation is Attacking Workers During the Pandemic.

The anti-worker “Freedom” Foundation recently printed an op-ed of lies in the California Globe. When the Northwest Accountability Project (NWAP) tried to have equal space to educate their readers about the nefarious actions of the deceitful anti-union group, the Globe denied our request. We’ve posted it here instead. Enjoy.

The April 14 opinion, “Temporary Suspension of Government Union Dues: A California Stimulus Proposal Whose Time Has Come,” is nothing more than another political ploy by the “Freedom” Foundation in a desperate attempt to remain relevant with their funders. The proposal would be laughable if they were not shamefully trying to exploit a pandemic that has killed more than 50,000 Americans to fulfill an extremist anti-union agenda.

The “Freedom” Foundation is an anti-union group that’s part of the Koch backed State Policy Network (SPN). Their goal according to CEO Tom McCabe was to “bankrupt unions” along the West Coast to help elect right-wing candidates and advance right-wing causes. A goal they failed to reach. Since the pandemic began, they have desperately tried to use the crisis to attack workers, including those on the frontlines. In Washington, the failing Freedom Foundation badgered firefighters at their homes about their union membership, shamefully stoking fears around a crashing economy caused by the pandemic. Firefighters fired back immediately calling on McCabe and Tracie Sharpe, the head of the SPN, to stop harassing firefighters, who are at serious risk of contracting COVID-19, amongst the many other dangers they face.

Essential workers are fighting hard on the frontlines to protect us all and provide Californians with essential services needed during this time of crisis and precarity. But let’s not speak abstractly about who these workers are. Public workers are firefighters, first responders, nurses, daycare workers, and home healthcare workers, among others. When anti-union groups talk about forcibly stopping voluntary union dues, they are talking about destroying the organizations that enable workers to have a voice in the workplace. Workers know their gains have been won at the bargaining table and that they are stronger together.

That is why the Freedom Foundation’s $20 million campaign to divide workers and destroy unions has been a monumental failure. Union membership in California grew by nearly 100,000 members from 2018 to 2019. The Freedom Foundation is desperate and clamoring for attention in an attempt to keep themselves relevant – that’s likely how they concocted this scheme. The Northwest Accountability Project has been tracking anti-union groups and their donors for nearly five years, and here’s what we know: they are more like an empty shell that makes a lot of noise, than a powerhouse political player that threatens unions. Take, for example, the lawsuits they frivolously file: In 2017, at a closed door fundraiser, McCabe said: “…and I think that most of the lawyers know this … but I don’t even care if we win any of these cases…”

While frontline workers are risking their lives to protect Californians, the Freedom Foundation is only trying to appease their donors. Any proposal they espouse promoting economic growth by cutting protections for working people should not be taken seriously. The “Freedom” Foundation’s political stunts are meant to cause division amongst workers. It’s especially shameful during a worldwide pandemic. Now is the time we must unite around workers, especially those on the frontlines putting themselves and their families at risk.

Did billionaire-funded front groups drain the federal stimulus money before it could help small businesses in need? We intend to find out.

This week, the Northwest Accountability Project (NWAP) filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the Small Business Administration (SBA), asking for data on all funding given to affiliates and associates of the State Policy Network (SPN) – all 161 of them.

It’s no secret that billionaires have been exploiting the pandemic to enrich themselves at the expense of the middle class. Meanwhile, some of their front groups in the SPN have been harassing first responders, trying to take away their voice on the job during this global crisis while pushing a false narrative about supporting small businesses. We’ve known for a long time that these groups care more about their billionaire funders than “Mom and Pop” shops on Main Street – now we’ll discover if these SPN groups have been reaping taxpayer money intended for small businesses.

The anti-worker Freedom Foundation (Opt Out Today), one of the more brazen and sloppy organizations in the SPN, has been trying to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic for political gain, launching frivolous lawsuits and harassing first responders because they’re union members. Crooked tactics like that already explain their miserable failure as an organization (they’ve spent more than $20 million trying to bust unions over the last five years and have nothing to show for it).

Three hundred forty-nine billion dollars. That’s how much the federal government distributed in aid through the SBA, offered as low-interest loans to help small businesses and organizations. But that money ran dry too quickly, in part because the loan program was abused by the uber-rich, who took more than $1 billion, leaving 80 percent of applicants without funding.

Greed joined hypocrisy when FreedomWorks, a SPN associate who has publicly railed against federal aid for the middle class in the past, also applied for funding from the SBA. Back in 2008, FreedomWorks decried the Great Recession stimulus plan as “unconstitutional,” but now their president has changed his tune, saying, “I would love someone to give us free cash.” The stated desire for “less government” and “lower taxes” so often trumpeted by these groups seems to only apply to working-class families. These groups are living up to the old adage: Socialism for the rich, capitalism for the poor.

How many other so-called “conservative think tanks” in the billionaire-funded State Policy Network, many of whom publicly revile government aid to workers while turning a blind eye to corporate subsidies, begged for a bailout funded by taxpayer money? We aim to find out.

Flush with millions from their ultra-wealthy donors, they already receive year-round tax benefits from their non-profit status even though they act as partisan political organizations. Are they double-dipping at the taxpayers’ expense, and pushing needy small businesses out of the loan line? The SBA money was meant for businesses on the edge of collapse, not political front groups with full pockets.

“It is completely wrong and completely reprehensible for the government to be subsidizing these nonprofits, but our real Main Street, small-town businesses are not getting this money,” said one commentator in an interview with the New York Times. We couldn’t agree more.

You can’t pretend to be “pro” small business and then drain their loan lifeline dry. You can’t show revulsion for our government and then suck down its largesse when the timing suits you. Stay tuned for the results of our public records request.

We Attended the Washington Policy Center’s Annual Summit So You Didn’t Have To

On April 14 and 15, 2020, we attended a virtual conference of the Washington Policy Center (WPC). The WPC claims to be a legitimate think tank, but in reality, they’re a front group for right-wing billionaires that have declared war on working people in this country. Their allies have even shamefully attacked first responders and healthcare workers battling on the front lines of the pandemic.

Their speakers outlined a vision for Washington State that would further empower the rich at the expense of working families. Their policy recommendations’ ideas are equally laughable and disturbing. Join us as we recap the best of the worst of WPC’s summit:

Trump appointee tells us Trump is doing an excellent job on the pandemic
Trump’s local director for the U.S. Department of Health, John Graham, said to us what a fantastic job his boss is doing. Beyond COVID-19, he told us one of Trump’s plans is to reduce prescription drug prices, but not by imposing price controls, because “we want investors to keep investing…” Of course, the WPC would choose a speaker that prioritizes investor profits over affordable medicine. This makes sense because Trump supported a 200 billion dollar giveaway to drug companies after taking 4.6 million from them already in his 2020 re-election campaign.

At least he did not advocate for injecting yourself with Lysol.

If you tax the rich, how will they buy horse ranches?
Director Jason Mercier from the Center for Government Reform brought on an uber-rich investor to explain why he doesn’t want to pay taxes. This “Average Joe” shared his personal journey – how he left California with a $2.5 billion hedge fund as an over-taxed “economic refugee.” But lo and behold, by moving his company to Washington state, he was able to buy a 40-acre horse ranch with all the savings because we don’t have an income tax on the rich.

The rich can “buy” college graduates on the cheap
The investor also bragged that he could “buy” a “college degree person for the… same price that you get sort of day labor.” As a group that throws around words like “liberty” and “freedom,” the Washington Policy Center probably shouldn’t be talking about buying people.

Save the bags, destroy our forests
“Environmental Director” Todd Myers was peddling some impressively hollow solutions that would do nothing to protect the environment and everything to enrich timber barons. His extremist ideas include cutting down more trees so developers can build houses faster “rather than just letting a forest sit,” and re-legalizing single-use plastic bags.

Free the people by taking away their healthcare
WPC analyst Dr. Roger Stark would reform our healthcare system by abolishing employer-sponsored health insurance. Stark wants to let the newly uninsured people “use their own dollars.” But no recommendations to increase wages. The Washington Policy Center and its allies have staunchly opposed increased wages, including the minimum wage.

The WPC’s Cold War
While the rest of our nation is flattening the curve of COVID-19 infection, WPC’s Chris Cargill is obsessed with a different kind of curve. The one that shows our youth bending towards socialism! Not to worry, WPC hatched a plan to get on the same level of the socialist-curious youth – they’ve hired a hip agency that makes pro-capitalism rap videos.

Goodbye public schools, hello home-schooling
A week before Rep. Vicki Kraft (LD-17) urged on the right-wing anti-quarantine rally in Olympia; she dropped by WPC’s summit. She was promoting a bill that could extract tax dollars from Washington public schools, re-assigning that money to for-profit charter schools. This is simply a ploy from an anti-union legislator and former Freedom Foundation staffer to bust the unions representing educators.

Carpet-bagging big agriculture activist scolds us Washingtonians about sustainable farming
Pam Lewison, from WPC’s big Agriculture department, imported a Virginia cattle rancher to talk about farming in Washington (Makes sense.) The rancher passionately scolded us, “Most people would say, ‘Well I know the difference between almond milk and cow milk…’ Well, do you? I mean, I’m not trying to be rude, but DO YOU?” (We do.) The rancher went on to assure us that chickens hate not being in cages. As for sustainability on family farms? Our state’s productive organic farms went un-mentioned, perhaps they’re not ‘sustainable’ enough for WPC’s “Big Ag before Small Farmer’s message.”

An award worth rejecting
The WPC summit was livecast at TVW.org, a media entity that also received an award from WPC during the presentation. It seems like we’ve done our homework where TVW has not, discovering that WPC shares the same funding pipeline with another radical group with an equally deceptive name, The National Policy Institute. Led by neo-nazi Richard Spencer, the National Policy Institute is a white supremacist organization that helped organize the deadly “Unite the Right” Rally in Chalottesville, VA in 2017. Both the WPC and Spencer received funding from the Rotella Foundation of Washington for their work. TVW tarnishes its non-partisan reputation by engaging so deeply with the WPC and its extremist politics.

The Benefits of Paid Sick Leave for Employers, Workers, Families, and Communities

In the wake of COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control recommends that workers stay home when sick. But for the roughly 33.6 million workers who do not have access to paid sick leave, abiding by this recommendation is a near impossibility. One study found that nearly 95% of Americans support paid leave for workers impacted by the coronavirus — despite this, the anti-worker “Freedom” Foundation remains staunch in their stance against the lifesaving and widely approved workplace benefit calling it a “a cure worse than the disease.”

While unions across the country are doing all they can to protect and support workers on the frontline — ensuring salary continuation for quarantined workers, expediting access to protective personal equipment, and calling for Courageous Duty Pay for public-facing workers — the billionaire-funded “Freedom” Foundation and their staff continue to spread misinformation, mock union workers fighting the pandemic, and politicize the pandemic by trying to convince politicians to forcibly stop voluntary union dues. They’ve even harassed firefighters at their homes because they’re union members.

Despite the Freedom Foundation’s opposition, the studies on paid sick leave prove the policy not only benefits workers, but also their families, their employers, and their communities.

Benefits for Employers

One of the billionaire-funded front group’s primary talking points against paid sick leave is the myth of the undue financial burden the policy has on employers. The Northwest Accountability Project has debunked that myth in another blog post — when workers are provided with paid sick leave, it actually financially benefits employers by preventing the workplace spread of illness and reducing employee turnover. However, the benefits for employers extend far beyond this: a study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that the availability of paid sick leave could help reduce the incidence of workplace injury. Workers with paid sick leave are 28% less likely to be injured at work. For employers, this means increased productivity, fewer worker compensation claims, and higher overall employee workplace satisfaction.

Benefits for Workers 

For workers, the benefits may seem obvious — a worker does not have to choose between getting paid and going to work while ill — but the true range of benefits is more far-reaching. According to a study by the BMC Public Health, the lack of paid sick leave is a barrier to obtaining lifesaving cancer screenings and other medical care. Meaning, having access to paid sick leave was positively associated with the ability to seek testing and preventive care. A 2017 study from the Economic Policy Institute found that paid sick leave grants workers with the security to care for themselves, while still being able to provide necessities for their families: “The average worker without access to paid sick leave for about three days lost wages that amounted to a household’s entire monthly grocery budget or monthly utilities budget.”

Benefits for Families 

For families, the benefits are wide-ranging. Parents and caregivers with paid sick leave are better equipped to care for of family members, due to their ability to take paid time off to stay home with them while ill and take them to the routine medical appointments. The Journal of The Americans Academy of Pediatrics found that parents without access to paid sick leave would be more likely to send their child(ren) to school sick. In a similar vein, a study by the National Partnership for Women and Families found that parents without paid sick leave were “2.5 times more likely than those with paid sick days to report taking a child or family member to the emergency room because they were unable to take time off during their normal job hours.” Furthermore, children whose parents have access to paid sick leave were 13% more likely to get the flu vaccine and also 13% more likely to have received an annual checkup.

Benefits for Communities

The benefits of paid sick leave even extend to the larger community: the Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that 1.3 million emergency room visits in the US could be prevented each year by providing workers with paid sick leave. According to this same study, this translates to a reduction in medical costs by an astronomical $1.1. billion annually and over $500 million saved for public insurance programs. The Center for American Progress reported that paid sick leave could curb the spread of COVID-19.

A study by the New York City of Consumer Affairs found that after the city implemented a paid sick leave mandate, the economy flourished: Unemployment dropped to the lowest it had been in six years, the labor participation rate reached a record high of 70%, and the private sector added 112,300 jobs.

For marginalized communities, the necessity for paid sick leave is even more dire. Latinx workers are among the least likely of any racial group to have access to paid sick leave, and an additional 1.2 million cases of flu-like illness during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic among Latinx workers can be attributed to the lack of paid sick leave. For survivors of domestic violence, the National Partnership of Women and Families advocates for paid sick days as a standard to “help provide victims and survivors [with] the support and job stability they need to escape and address violence.”

Now more than ever, workers need the stability and security of paid sick leave. With each passing day, the so-called “Freedom” Foundation and their anti-worker, anti-paid sick leave agenda drift further into the billionaire-class fringes. They are so clearly on the wrong side of this battle. Across the board, from employers and their families to communities and entire cities, we see that paid sick leave has a rippling, positive effect. Paid sick leave does more than just allow workers to stay home when sick, it allows for broad, positive economic transformation.

Bradley Foundation Could Help During the Pandemic by Funding Groups on the Front Lines: Labor Unions

The Northwest Accountability Project is calling on the Wisconsin-based Bradley Foundation to immediately suspend all funding of white supremacists, anti-LGBTQ organizations and groups that attack working families. During the pandemic, these extremists have enjoyed Bradley’s gifts from their view on the sidelines while braver souls are on the front lines, facing serious health risks to ensure our safety.

The Bradley Foundation should re-route their funds to the groups actually battling the coronavirus pandemic: America’s labor unions.

Here’s why:

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation is a right-wing financial trust based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with an estimated war chest of close to $900,000,000. They grant out over $50,000,000 of that every year. The Foundation has directly exacerbated the damage of the current pandemic by funding a campaign to restrict access to food stamps and Medicaid, as well as discourage paid sick leave laws. They’ve also funded other regressive groups that have fought to divide our nation and attack people of color and the LGBTQ community.

A closer look at Bradley’s past grant recipients shows all too clearly how their money is being misspent. $1,500,000 went to an anti-LGBTQ group in New Jersey called the Witherspoon Institute which hosted an annual anti-LGBTQ seminar and funded a study that said the children of gay parents fare worse than children raised by married opposite-sex parents.

They awarded $250,000 to white nationalist Charles Murray, who wrote that “disadvantaged groups are disadvantaged because, on average, they cannot compete with white men, who are intellectually, psychologically and morally superior,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The Bradley Foundation also gifted a failing anti-worker group called the Freedom Foundation at least $1,500,000. The grant came with the understanding it would be used to defund labor unions – many of which are currently fighting daily for workers on the pandemic’s front lines to be protected and adequately compensated. Since their first grant to the Freedom Foundation was issued, however, Washington state has moved up to 3rd most unionized state in the country, casting serious doubt on the Freedom Foundation’s aptitude and making an even stronger case that Bradley should turn their funding elsewhere. The failing political organization is so desperate they have even exploited the pandemic for their billionaire funder’s political goals.

Bradley’s $50,000,000 should be directed to where it would be most useful – to the front-line healthcare workers and the labor unions supporting them. Unions have shown what heroism looks like at this moment in our country – they’ve been sourcing and distributing protective equipment, established financial safety nets for impacted workers and continue fighting for paid sick leave laws that protect all families.

The Bradley Foundation speaks in sweeping patriotic terms on their website, where it “envisions a nation invigorated by the principles and institutions that uphold our unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” We say that the Bradley Foundation has been choosing the wrong institutions for their donations – shameless groups whose principles have been to attack, demean and mislead other Americans. In reality, no other group is upholding our inalienable rights now more than labor unions.

With the Trump administration denying a new enrollment period into the Affordable Care Act, the Bradley Foundation bears even more responsibility for people unable to access social services after being laid off. They should now show true patriotism and immediately cease funding of the noxious recipients listed above and turn instead to supporting the workers, and their unions, on the front lines. These are the people who truly deserve Bradley’s millions, as they strive to protect all of our lives, our liberties and our ability to maintain happiness during this challenging time.

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