Several months ago, Maxford Nelson, executive director of a
right-wing think tank, the Freedom Foundation, showed up at a
Washington state legislative committee hearing to oppose a bill to
make dues checkoff easier for the states public workers.
The lawmakers jumped on him, questioning what he was even doing
there, since the foundation is supposed to be and advertises itself
as non-profit and non-partisan. Federal and state tax rules bar
such groups from overt political lobbying.
What the lawmakers didnt know, and what newly revealed documents
now show, is the Freedom Foundation, run by anti-union
multimillionaire Tom McCabe, is part of a 50-state right-wing
corporate State Policy Network with among other items on its agenda
destruction of public worker unions.
And that network, funded by the Koch brothers, the Walton and
Scaife foundations, and other right-wing multimillionaires, came up
with a new way of doing so in their toolkit: Trying to get union
members to quit while still taking union benefits.
SPNs get-them-to-drop-out drive is part of the right wings
larger effort to defund unions in general de-fund the left, as
right-wing leaders put it and grease the skids for their
pro-corporate agenda. That agenda includes massive deregulation,
smashing unions and workers, and tax cuts for firms and the
Internal SPN documents obtained by the British
newspaper The Guardian and published May 15 shed
light on the aims and details of the network. Unionists and
residents of the Pacific Northwest, however, know the drill
SPNs aims, goals and methods mimic those of the Freedom
Foundation for the last four years. Ever since McCabe took over in
2013, its stepped up its efforts in Oregon, Washington and
California. Now its expanding to other states. Getting workers to
dump their union memberships has been one method.
Well-run opt-out campaigns can cause public-sector unions to
experience 5 (percent) to 20 percent declines in membership,
costing hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in dues
money. This can affect the resources and attention available for
union leaders to devote to political action campaigns, the key SPN
internal memo says.
To fund such campaigns, the Koch Brothers and other
right-wingers have budgeted approximately $80 million for 66
so-called think tanks nationwide, specifically for their campaign
to get public union members to quit.
Their method, the Guardian reported, was to
use the legal system to get lists of public union members and then
hire paid operatives to go door to door, using phony arguments to
convince those unionists to drop their memberships and quit paying
either union dues or agency fees.
Access to lists of union....