December 5, 2017 Print

Freedom Foundation employees are excited to inform union members of their right to opt out.

Public sector employees are pressured to join the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) once they gain employment. However, a 2014 Supreme Court decision (Harris v. Quinn) authorized Medicaid-compensated home healthcare and childcare providers in Washington, Oregon, and California to opt out of their union membership. Despite the ruling, many of these employees are unaware that they have the right to opt out of the SEIU and avoid paying union dues. Freedom Foundation, an Atlas Network partner based in the state of Washington, is working to end this culture of ignorance with their “Union Transparency and Reform Project.”

Since the start of the project 18,000 SEIU members have chosen to opt out of the union, and Freedom Foundation’s work has been covered by many news outlets, including Wall Street Journal, Politico, and Fox News. Freedom Foundation directly championed eight union reform bills and were closely involved with two additional bills; six of these 10 bills passed in Washington state’s Senate committee meetings and one even passed in the Senate at-large. Thirty-three legislators sponsored these bills, and 24 individuals gave public testimony on behalf of the reform efforts.

“If workers are given a choice and choose to unionize, so be it,” said Tom McCabe, Freedom Foundation’s CEO. “But we don’t believe they will, and neither do the unions, or they wouldn’t be working so hard to keep the workers from having that choice – or discovering they already do.”

The SEIU does not want its members to know that they have the option to leave. This is evident by the millions of dollars that have been spent to prevent disclosure of the worker lists. With the list held in secret, outsiders are unable to communicate with the members and inform them of their rights. Freedom Foundation was successful in overcoming that challenge and obtained a list of 50,000 current union members, which they subsequently mailed opt-out information to.

In order to facilitate the process of opting out, Freedom Foundation has created a website called Opt Out Today. This website provides all the relevant information for public employees to withdraw their union membership in the states of California, Washington, and Oregon.

The true impact of the “Union Transparency and Reform Project” can be seen by the effect it has had on individuals. In a video created by Freedom Foundation, a woman named Miranda Thorpe explains, “If people want to join a union they have a right to do so, but they should be fully informed of what their choices are. For me, I found no benefit to being in the union and I didn’t want to be a part of it.” Another video Freedom Foundation released featured the Olson family. They claimed that, “Having the union take our money was a real hardship on us. We used to pay $2,000 a year in dues. Thankfully we learned about our right to keep our money and now we use it on things that matter to our family, like groceries, gas, and medical bills.”

People have the right to know about how voluntary their associations are, and that is no different for professional associations. “It’s the right thing to do,” continued McCabe. “No one should have to surrender their First Amendment rights of free speech and freedom of association as the price for a government job.” It is unethical to keep union members in the dark about their right to opt out of their associations.

“It all comes down to a simple proposition: If workers truly valued the service unions provided, they’d be knocking down the doors to get in, not out,” concluded McCabe. “But since they apparently don’t, why should workers have to choose between subsidizing that service for the few who do and losing their jobs?” Freedom Foundation is fighting to break the stranglehold the SEIU has had on government employees.

Atlas Network awarded Freedom Foundation a support grant for its Union Transparency and Reform project.