Freedom Foundation

Lies, Intimidation Triumph Over Transparency in Whatcom County

The residents of Whatcom County (Wash.) on Oct. 13 were denied a common-sense government transparency reform when county commissioners there succumbed to a full-court press from union operatives more interested in spinning wild conspiracy theories than relying on fact or reason.

At issue was a proposed resolution under which the county would have ended the practice of negotiating behind closed doors with the unions representing its public employees and allowed taxpayers to see how their hard-earned dollars are being spent.

Such measures are wildly popular with the public, but not so with politicians and union leaders, who prefer to do their dirty deals in private.

The Freedom Foundation has long championed open government and has worked with numerous other Washington jurisdictions to pass similar legislation. The organization, however, had nothing whatsoever to do with the Whatcom resolution other than an appearance at the hearing by Labor Policy Director Maxford Nelsen to speak in support of its passage.

Nelsen noted that, in other counties, states and taxing districts, transparency in contract negotiations is universally regarded as an important safeguard that benefits not only taxpayers but also union members, who have a right to know how competently their leaders are representing their interests.

“This is an idea whose time has come,” Nelsen testified. “And even better, it’s also good policy.”

For their part, an orchestrated stream of union leaders could only lie about the Freedom Foundation’s involvement in the process, implying the commissioners were being duped by a sinister right-wing cabal rather than taking a responsible step toward transparent government.

Michell Stelovich, of the Northwest Washington Labor Council, hissed, “It is, again, right out of the Freedom Foundation, right-to-work playbook.”

Wrong.

Much as we’d love to claim credit for persuading the council to introduce this measure, every so often an idea is so good it doesn’t need the Freedom Foundation to promote it. But with a little arm-twisting and a lot of lies, sometimes the unions can still kill it.