Freedom Foundation

Court of Appeals releases public records to Freedom Foundation over SEIU 925 objection

Two years and several important legal precedents after its first request, the Freedom Foundation can finally receive a list of family childcare providers it requested from the state nearly two years ago. The Freedom Foundation requested the list as part of its ongoing effort to inform providers of their constitutional right to avoid having union dues withheld from their state payments.

Despite the delay in obtaining this particular list, nearly two-thirds of family child care providers have chosen not to be members of SEIU 925 as a result of Freedom Foundation litigation and educational outreach.

On Sept. 18, the Court of Appeals in Tacoma ruled in the Foundation’s favor in a case where SEIU 925 tried to block the Foundation from contacting publicly compensated family child care providers to inform them of their rights.

The Freedom Foundation requested the childcare provider list from the Department of Early Learning just prior to the election in November 2016, but the agency was prevented from complying when SEIU 925, which represents the providers, filed a lawsuit.

Under a 2014 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, Harris v. Quinn, childcare providers — along with state-paid home caregivers and interpreters — cannot be compelled to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment.

The Freedom Foundation has placed a huge emphasis on informing these workers of their rights, while the unions have attempted to keep workers in the dark.In this case, union attorneys argued the state wasn’t required to comply with the Freedom Foundation’s information request because Washington voters in 2016 passed Initiative 1501, which exempted the list of providers from public disclosure.

The catch was, voters didn’t approve I-1501 until more than a month after the Freedom Foundation made its information request, and the union was trying to apply the law retroactively.

The Appeals Court ruled:

“The (Freedom) Foundation obtained a vested right in the requested records when it made its initial request. The application of the new statutes would clearly affect the Foundation’s right to the records, and therefore the new statutes cannot apply retroactively to prohibit the Department from disclosing the records …”

Not coincidentally, the U.S. Supreme Court this past June in Janus v. AFSCME issued a ruling similar to Harris, extending the right to opt out of union dues and fees to all public employees. The Appeals Court ruling is a sign to come for the future: The unions’ game is up.

This latest win will help the Freedom Foundation reach additional workers with information about their First Amendment rights.