Big Labor Remains Biggest Foe to Government Transparency

Big Labor Remains Biggest Foe to Government Transparency

Big Labor Remains Biggest Foe to Government Transparency

In light of this week’s oral arguments before the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Boardman v. Inslee — a Freedom Foundation lawsuit challenging a Service Employees International Union-funded, wildly deceptive 2016 ballot measure in Washington state aimed squarely at preventing the Freedom Foundation from speaking to state-paid caregivers about their constitutional rights — it’s worth emphasizing once again the various attempts SEIU’s counterparts in Oregon have made to hijack the state’s open government ideals and actively work against equal protection of the law in pursuit of their own special interests.

The most recent example is last year’s legislation mandating that public employees’ personal contact information be handed over to union leaders without question, even though Oregon’s public records laws effectively prohibit such disclosure to everybody else.

When you consider the unions themselves are responsible for the latter — they and their cronies first broke, then weakened those public records laws in a whopping three out of the last five years — it becomes clear their only goal is to suppress all communication to public employees except their own.

That goal hasn’t succeeded, but it’s not for lack of effort. Competence, maybe, but not effort.

Or perhaps it’s because most Oregonians recognize the unions’ true intentions. At the very least, they’ve been called out when the examples are so egregious that even the state’s newspapers jump in.

And thanks to the Freedom Foundation, they’ve been challenged.

The 2019 legislation, for example — although it ultimately passed with the above-mentioned provisions — failed to round out the unions’ wish list after fierce public testimony led to several amendments removing the worst components.

According to union leaders themselves, their preferred version of the bill would have gone a step further by expressly prohibiting the Freedom Foundation from contacting public employees about their constitutional rights.

Thankfully, that’s not going to happen anytime soon.

Yet there’s still a major problem with union leaders’ efforts to grant themselves exclusive access to employee information. It remains to be seen whether similar constitutional arguments to those in Boardman v. Inslee can be made, but even temporarily setting aside those issues, the unions’ hypocrisy is worth addressing.

When not openly professing their desire to keep the Freedom Foundation from telling their members the truth, SEIU’s rationale for assaulting Oregon’s transparency laws is twofold

  • First, they’ll make the unsubstantiated claim that disclosing public employee contact information – like addresses, emails and phone numbers – increases threats of identity theft and harassment, and thus should be off-limits to virtually anybody seeking it.
  • Then they’ll say, “Except for us.”

But wait a minute – isn’t SEIU the one that illegally confiscated dues, refused to honor employees’ constitutional rights, engineered a sham election to prevent its members from communicating with each other, was caught forging public employees’ signatures in the past and is now being sued for forgery again?

That’s quite a rap sheet, and it certainly doesn’t lend one to view SEIU as the trustworthy workplace representative it would have its ‘members’ believe.

With bad actors like SEIU in Gov. Kate Brown’s inner circle, it’s no wonder her gilded attempts at public records reform in Oregon have gotten off to a rocky start. After all, her biggest ally happens to be transparency’s biggest enemy.

Policy Analyst
Ben Straka serves as a policy analyst for the Freedom Foundation. His responsibilities include an array of policy research and reform efforts, primarily centered around labor relations, education and government transparency within the states. In addition, he provides support for the Freedom Foundation’s Outreach program and works closely with the rest of the team to hold local governments and public-sector unions accountable to state residents. Ben joined the Freedom Foundation in May 2016. He is a native of Eugene, Ore., and a graduate of Corban University, where he studied political science and business.