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Working Washington Still An SEIU-Front Group

Last updated 4/13/18

Back in 2013, the Freedom Foundation documented the close ties between Working Washington, a local labor activist group, and the SEIU. We also reported that Working Washington was paying workers to take part in minimum wage-related protests.

The fact that Working Washington is primarily funded by SEIU is publicly available information, but that doesn’t mean the group isn’t a little a touchy about it.

One of Working Washington’s favorite means of discrediting opponents is to claim, rightly or wrongly, that they are funded by evil corporations and, therefore, their arguments should be dismissed out of hand. If an employer speaks out unfavorably about a minimum wage increase or shares what a new labor regulation could do to their business, Working Washington digs up their associations, past statements, political views, etc. and uses it to harass the employer into silence.

Just recently, the Tacoma News Tribune published an opinion-editorial by Jordan Bruneau of the Employment Policies Institute (EPI) about the negative effects of Washington’s increasing minimum wage on small businesses.

In a series of tweets, Working Washington blasted the “author’s affiliation” with EPI, which it decried as a “PR operation of chain restaurant lobby,” and dismissed the concerns of one of the business owners cited in the story as a “longtime libertarian troll.”

When Jason Rantz, co-host of the Jason and Burns show on KIRO Radio 97.3FM, pointed out on Twitter that “Working Washington is a labor union group” and itself beholden to special interests, the organization got defensive, tweeting back, “we’re not a union no matter how you wish it were so” and “like almost all nonprofit groups we have diverse sources of funding. Boring that you continue to pretend not to grasp that.”

Protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, not much has changed since 2013 when we last documented the close ties between Working Washington and SEIU. To review,

1. Working Washington still receives substantial funding from SEIU.

  • In 2011, the year Working Washington was created, the national SEIU contributed $1,927,386 to SEIU Leadership Council 14 for the “Working WA program.” The funds were, in turn, contributed to Working Washington. In addition, SEIU 775 contributed $18,000 to the “Working Washington PAC.”
  • In 2012, the national SEIU gave $1,724,954 to SEIU Leadership Council 14 which, in turn, contributed the funds to Working Washington. SEIU 775 contributed a further $10,000 to the “Working Washington PAC.”
  • In 2013, the national SEIU contributed $2,581,784 million directly to Working Washington. The national SEIU contributed a further $693,973 to SEIU Leadership Council 14 for the “Working WA program.” SEIU Leadership Council 14 in turn forwarded the funds to Working Washington. Lastly, SEIU 775 contributed $16,315 to the “Working Washington PAC.”
  • In 2014, the national SEIU directly contributed $2,648,206 to Working Washington while SEIU 775 contributed another $87,847 to the “Working Washington PAC.”
  • In 2015, the national SEIU contributed $1,975,777 to Working Washington, while the organization received $140,000 from SEIU Leadership Council 14 and $505,050 from SEIU 775.
  • In 2016, Working Washington received only $62,500 from the national SEIU, but received $182,833 from SEIU Leadership Council 14 and a whopping $1,350,715 from SEIU 775.
  • Most recently, in 2017, SEIU Leadership Council 14 gave Working Washington $91,417 while SEIU 775 chipped in $419,717.

Thus, over the course of its history, Working Washington has received at least $14,436,474 from SEIU affiliates. Working Washington does accept individual donations, though, through the progressive online giving platform ActBlue.

2. SEIU 775 and Working Washington still both operate out of the historic Pacific Northwest Title building in downtown Seattle. Working Washington’s registration with the Washington Secretary of State lists its address as 215 Columbia St., Seattle, WA, 98104, the same address SEIU 775 lists on its website.

3. Working Washington’s board of directors is still stacked with SEIU officials. Working Washington’s registration with the Washington Secretary of State currently lists nine individuals as its “governing persons.” Of these, four work for progressive groups and nonprofits, many of whom have supported Working Washington/SEIU campaigns in the past, and five are current or former SEIU employees, including:

  • David Rolf: Currently the president of SEIU Local 775.
  • Sergio Salinas: Currently the president of SEIU Local 6.
  • Andrew Beane: A full-time employee of SEIU 775, according to federal records.
  • Shelley Hughes: An SEIU 775 member on the union’s executive board.
  • Anastasia Christman: Currently senior policy analyst for the National Employment Law Project, formerly worked for SEIU for nine years.

4. Key Working Washington staff are still current/former SEIU employees. Sage Wilson is the executive director of Working Washington. Wilson was formerly the communications director for the organization. SEIU 775’s annual federal reports listed Wilson as an employee in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.

5. For years, Working Washington’s web domain was registered under the national SEIU.

While Working Washington may not be a labor union per se, its continued close association with SEIU suggests it likely operates primarily to advance the union’s interests.

Particularly in today’s polarized political environment, however, it is important to remember the importance of engaging with arguments and ideas instead of simply dismissing the views of people or organizations based on their background, affiliations or funding. As we noted back in 2013:

“Working Washington takes a number of positions on policy and other issues. The validity of those positions is not necessarily undermined by the fact that they are funded directly by the SEIU.”

Given Working Washington’s sensitivity to criticism on the basis of its ties to SEIU, one hopes the organization has not become so used to employing guilt-by-association and personal ad hominem attacks that similar retorts are the only kind it recognizes as valid.