Thanks to a complaint filed by The Freedom Foundation with the Washington Attorney General’s office, Attorney General Bob Ferguson (“AG”) on Thursday filed a lawsuit against SEIU 775 (“SEIU”) for engaging in illegal campaign practices to the tune of nearly $1.4 million which it funneled to candidates and ballot initiatives through its own PAC. (It is actually $1,389,251.66, but who’s counting?)
The AG also charges SEIU and SEIU’s PAC with concealing in-kind contributions, which means neither SEIU nor its PAC report the work SEIU 775 officials perform for its PAC. This includes SEIU 775 President David Rolf.
In other words, SEIU’s violations could not be ignored even by Washington politicians! SEIU and other big money union interests in Washington have been allowed to run amuck in Washington politics for too long without being held accountable. Washington politicians have too much to lose by attacking powerful union interests that fund their campaigns, lobby for their laws, contribute to friendly ballot initiatives, and smear their opponents during campaign season.
Powerful unions such as SEIU have for years essentially operated as shadow political committees by hiding behind the façade of its labor union status. But make no mistake, SEIU’s primary directive is influencing politics, fundamentally changing state and national law, and funding the big-government culture movement that eats away at individual liberty. Compulsory collective bargaining is simply a means to this end.
SEIU would rather no one know how much it spends on politics. It especially wants to keep those it represents in the dark. After all, because Harris v. Quinn freed all partial-public employees such as home health care providers from compulsory dues, SEIU can no longer force those it represents to pay dues. SEIU (and the State) expends significant resources to keep those it represents from knowing of their constitutional rights, exercising their choice to not pay dues, and learning of union activity with which they may disagree. They would rather their members simply “shut-up and pay up.”
One way SEIU keeps providers in the dark is to conceal its political activity by skirting Washington’s public disclosure laws. Unless SEIU reports its political expenditures, no one searching for SEIU’s activity using the Public Disclosure Commission’s database can discover how SEIU spends the dues paid by providers.
For example, SEIU’s own documents reveal that it spent over $2.6 million on “political activities and lobbying” in 2014 alone. SEIU is also currently sitting on over $5.5 million in cash it most assuredly plans to spend on politics during the 2016 election cycle. Throw in the fact that SEIU also paid over $6.3 million to the national SEIU, which spent over $47.9 million on political activities and lobbying in 2014, and you have got yourself a good old-fashioned political committee.
Although the Washington AG filed suit against SEIU, he never would have done so without the pressure put on him by the Freedom Foundation. AG Ferguson had 45 days to file charges against SEIU, otherwise the Freedom Foundation would have done so. But make no mistake, it is a watershed moment when a state AG whose party is in bed with big labor sues one of the most powerful unions in the state. It is a victory for liberty in every sense of the word. The Freedom Foundation handed SEIU to the AG on a silver platter. The AG had to do something. And he did.
The AG lawsuit is another big step in the Freedom Foundation’s mission to bring union transparency and reform to the Northwest. Bringing union conduct into the light in order to let individuals know the truth is half the battle. The AG’s lawsuit sheds light on some of the union’s most egregious conduct. The Freedom Foundation applauds the AG’s lawsuit. It is the proverbial tip of the iceberg signaling danger ahead for SEIU.