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Bradley Foundation targets unions in Washington state

Reports: Group is funding Freedom Foundation to attack workers’ rights


SEATTLE (May 16, 2017) — Recent reports from the Center for Media and Democracy and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel revealed that Washington is one of the top targets for the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation’s plans to dismantle unions and state laws protecting workers’ rights. 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 and bills itself as a “charitable nonprofit,” yet much of its focus 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. In Wisconsin, the Bradley Foundation’s backing of conservative groups and activists bolstered Gov. Scott Walker’s controversial anti-union policies, including the passage of Wisconsin’s “right to work” law in 2015.

In Washington state, the Bradley Foundation granted $1.5 million over three years to the 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.

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. They also hired a Santa Claus to leaflet state workers as they walked in and out of their workplace, encouraging them to stop paying full union dues.

“The Bradley Foundation’s meddling into workers’ lives is detestable,” said Jeff Johnson, President of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO. “Wealthy corporations and the organizations that serve them need to stop rigging our political system against hardworking people like the public employees who make our state run.”

“We’re not going to let the Bradley Foundation, the Freedom Foundation, or the other groups they fund get us down,” Johnson added. “More than ever, working people are coming together to raise wages, protect workers’ rights, and expand the right to organize in our state. We will continue to spotlight and expose the negative, destabilizing outside pressure from anti-union groups on state and local governments. We must ensure Washington politics put the priorities of Washington’s working families first.”

The Freedom Foundation, like its benefactors at the Bradley Foundation, is a tax-exempt organization that is not supposed to engage in partisan politics. However, its CEO is longtime Republican operative and campaign consultant Tom McCabe, who previously ran the Building Industry Association of Washington. At the BIAW, McCabe spent heavily to try to elect Republicans via a scheme that siphoned millions of dollars from the state-run workers’ compensation system.

But his tenure at the BIAW netted few victories and his abrasive rhetoric — BIAW once declared that Gov. Chris Gregoire was a “heartless, power-hungry she-wolf who would eat her own young to get ahead” — alienated elected officials and some of BIAW’s own members. McCabe’s final straw at BIAW was his decision to spend more than $6 million in 2008 in a failed attempt to get Republican Dino Rossi elected as governor amid a housing crunch that was devastating most home builders. The internal BIAW acrimony that ensued led to McCabe’s ouster, but not before he negotiated a $1.25 million buyout and a year of health-care coverage as severance.

The infusion of cash from the Bradley Foundation confirms previous reports that McCabe’s Freedom Foundation, which refuses to disclose its donors, is bankrolled by billionaire-funded foundations that are opposed to unions. Source Watch has reported that the Freedom Foundation has close ties to ALEC and gets its money from national foundations funded by aggressively anti-union Republican billionaires like the late Richard Scaife, Thomas Roe, and the Walton family. The Center for Media and Democracy also explains how funding for the FF and its fellow members of the State Policy Network is traced back to the billionaire Koch brothers.

With this foundation money, the Freedom Foundation has expanded its efforts opposing unions from Washington state into Oregon and, more recently, California.

PREVIOUSLY at The Stand:

Tax-exempt Freedom Foundation faces AG action over politicking (April 28, 2017)

Right-wing Freedom Foundation swept, but still suing away (Oct. 17, 2014)

McCabe’s Freedom Foundation plans legal assault on labor (June 9, 2014)

CHECK OUT THE UNION DIFFERENCE in Washington: higher wages, affordable health and dental care, job and retirement security.

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