Not all battles are won on the center stage. Indeed, sometimes the biggest victories are seen by the fewest sets of eyes.
Case in point: This past week, the Freedom Foundation’s Pennsylvania outreach team received great results from an appeal of a right-to-know law (“RTKL”) request filed in early July.
On Aug. 5 — warp speed by government standards — we obtained all of the requested records from Lehigh County.
The appeal was made to the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records (“OOR”) against Lehigh County for denying disclosure of the Freedom Foundation’s right-to-know request. In June, we had sought information regarding public employees working in and for Lehigh County.
The Freedom Foundation needs this contact information in order to inform public employees that, under the First Amendment, they can no longer be forced to join a labor union or support one with their dues or fees.
Lehigh County officials denied the release of the requested information for three flimsy reasons:
- they claimed the information is protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and disclosure would violate an employee’s right to freedom of association;
- they asserted employee payroll deductions are protected personal identifiers under the RTKL; and,
- lastly, they argued that union dues information may be redacted because it is personal financial information, also protected under the RTKL.
The Freedom Foundation appealed this blanket denial to the OOR, laying out its responses in opposition to Lehigh County’s position.
Lehigh County saw the writing on the wall and, 23 days after filing the appeal, the county sent a letter acknowledging its “error” in denying the original request and releasing all the requested records.
While not exactly a banner-headline win, from tiny acorns do mighty oaks grow.
Likewise, from a quiet, administrative decision made deep within the bowels of an obscure Pennsylvania public agency has the potential to mean freedom from union servitude for hundreds — if not thousands — of government employees.