The Freedom Foundation sued Washington state Tuesday for violating the right-to-work think tank’s right to free speech, barring it from passing out leaflets in a public space.
A Freedom Foundation canvasser entered the Washington Department of Ecology with an attorney on Dec. 14, 2017. The canvasser, dressed as Santa Claus, began passing out information packets on the Washington Federation of State Employees (WFSE), the department’s union, according to the lawsuit.
The packets said the WFSE had acted “naughty” spending nearly $1 million on “political contributions,” despite claiming that the union does not spend money from members’ dues on politics, the suit says.
“Every penny came from state employees’ dues,” the Freedom Foundation leaflets said. “No matter your political views, state workers shouldn’t have their dues used for Greg Devereux’s political agenda without their knowledge and permission.”
Department of Ecology head of human resources Sandi Stewart “accompanied by security guards, arrived and reiterated that Freedom Foundation would not be allowed to hand out leaflets in the lobby or any other portion of the building,” according to the lawsuit.
The WFSE had previously held membership drives and meetings in the lobby that the Freedom Foundation canvasser had occupied. Because of its collective bargaining agreement with the agency, WFSE did not qualify as an outside organization and was thus able to operate in the building, Stewart told the Freedom Foundation attorney against his protests.
The WFSE and other public-sector unions are under pressure to maintain their current membership rolls. The Supreme Court ruled in June that forced agency fees, paid to unions by nonmembers to cover the cost of collective bargaining, violated public-sector employees’ right to free speech by forcing workers to subsidize the unions’ government lobbying without affirmative assent. (RELATED: The Supreme Court Just Handed Down Its Big Decision On Mandatory Union Dues)
The Freedom Foundation filed a brief in the case against the union position of keeping mandatory agency fees. Since the ruling, the Freedom Foundation has stepped up its campaigning to inform workers of their newly secured rights while unions have lobbied lawmakers and filed suits to slow the foundation’s work. (RELATED: A Union Busting Nonprofit Is Set Do Battle With Public Sector Unions All Over The West Coast)
The Washington Department of Ecology did not respond to a request for comment.
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