Career Union Politico Takes the Reins at the Washington State Democratic Party

Career Union Politico Takes the Reins at the Washington State Democratic Party

Career Union Politico Takes the Reins at the Washington State Democratic Party

The Washington State Labor Council (WSLC) announced this week that its political director, Karen Deal, was moving on to become the Executive Director for the Washington State Democratic Party. Of course, the cozy relationship between Big Labor and Washington Democrats is hardly news. But at least now it’s official.

With her move to the Washington Democrats, Deal continues her advance up labor’s political food chain, with which she has significant experience. The WSLC’s online news site, The Stand, noted that, prior to heading WSLC’s political program, Deal worked as the Political Director for the King County Labor Council and later for United Food and Commercial Workers Local 21.

A statement by WSLC president Jeff Johnson lauded Deal’s work, which included creating “a political program that ran 24/7/365 and was as sophisticated as any in the country.” For their part, state Democrats praised Deal’s “broad network of partners and allies” (translation: deep-pocketed labor unions).

Deal’s move will further cement the already strong ties between organized labor and the Democratic Party. Just last month, the WSLC released its list of endorsements for the fall elections. Out of 81 state legislative endorsements, 80 were Democrats.

Democratic candidates rely heavily on Big Labor for campaign funding and foot soldiers. According to Freedom Foundation analysis, the state Democrat Central Committee received about 30 percent of its funding from labor during the 2011-12 election cycle. Some Democratic legislative candidates in the 2012 elections, like failed 28th district candidate Eric Choiniere, received as much as 75 percent of their campaign support from organized labor.

Furthermore, as we have documented, the vast majority of funds spent on politics by Washington unions comes from compulsory union dues automatically deducted from workers’ paychecks as a condition of employment.

All of this raises the question: are Washington unions really focused on representing their members, or are they simply an extension of the Democratic Party?

Director of Labor Policy
Maxford Nelsen is the Freedom Foundation’s Director of Labor Policy. In this capacity, Max regularly testifies on labor issues before local governments and the state legislature. Max’s research has formed the basis of several briefs submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court. Max’s work has been published in local newspapers around the country and in national outlets like the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, The Hill, National Review and the American Spectator. His work on labor policy issues has been featured in media outlets like the New York Times, Fox News and PBS News Hour. He is a frequent guest on local radio stations like 770 KTTH and 570 KVI. From 2019-21, Max was a presidential appointee to the Federal Service Impasses Panel within the Federal Labor Relations Authority, which resolves contract negotiation disputes between federal agencies and labor unions. Prior to joining the Freedom Foundation in 2013, Max worked for and the Washington Policy Center, and interned with the Heritage Foundation. Max holds a labor relations certificate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and graduated magna cum laude from Whitworth University with a bachelor’s degree in political science. A Washington native, he lives in Olympia with his wife and sons.