Outrageous and Unacceptable: Judge upholds Freedom Foundation demand for State Workers names

Activists, including from OWLS packed the Courtroom in Olympia on July 29.

Activists, including from OWLS packed the Courtroom in Olympia on July 29.


KCPQ interviews an SEIU member about the FF goal — every worker earning starvation wages.

In an unfortunate decision Friday, July 29, 2016, Thurston Superior Court Judge Mary Sue Wilson ruled in favor of the ultra-conservative and anti-union Olympia based Freedom Foundation.  The decision gives the foundation access to the first and last names, and middle initial of all Washington State employees who belong to a union.  In addition, the state of Washington will provide the well funded rightwing foundation with the date of birth and employee e-mail addresses, impacting the privacy of thousands of public workers.

Arguing on behalf of union members were three women attorneys, Laura Ewan, Kathleen Barnard, and Kristen Kushman.  They stressed the need for individual privacy, protection from misuse of information including identity theft, and the potential risk of retaliation and abuse of workers in the criminal justice system.

A white male lawyer, David Dewhirst, dressed in an expensive dark two piece business suit, wearing dorky looking light tan winged tipped shoes, and having an appropriately sheared skinned head, argued for the regressive Freedom Foundation.

And another white male, Assistant Attorney General for the State of Washington, Andrew Longerwell, disappointingly neglected to give any meaningful support to the unions and impacted employees.

Judge Wilson, in her decision, noted that the Freedom Foundation openly declares its purpose is to “defund and bankrupt public employee unions.”  She said the State’s Public Records Act does not allow her to rule broadly and that the foundation’s motives of fundraising, and political speech are constitutional rights.  Therefore, she lifted the temporary injunction against the foundation’s request for public workers’ contact information.

The Freedom Foundation admitted that it will use the information the State provides them to determine employees’ addresses through use of registered voter lists.  The organization will then use door to door canvassing to contact union members and “make them aware of their rights.”  But union members already know their rights.  They don’t need a bloated male dominated wealth tank to tell them how to think.

The foundation’s Dewhirst also criticized about two dozen labor activists — members from a wide spectrum of public and private sector unions — who had peaceably packed the court room. Apparently his rights are more important than the rights of ordinary working people who also belong in a court room.

After Judge Wilson reached her decision the activists convened outside the courthouse for an impromptu rally and strategy session called by Organized Workers for Labor Solidarity (OWLS). Predictably, following Dewhirst’s disrespectful comments, another Freedom Foundation cohort stopped by and revved up his Japanese made motorcycle in an unsuccessful effort to disrupt the peaceful protest.  This individual, whose vehicle license number was photographed, hoped to make it impossible for anyone to speak, or hear.  Is this the Freedom Foundation’s definition of constitutional rights? Only the rich have constitutional rights? Only the 1%?  Only the corporate oligarchy?

Among the labor supporters, Bill E. Garner, an electrician, came all the way from Clark County Community College in Vancouver, WA.  He said members of his union “were glad to be in the union. They wanted to stay in the union, and they were concerned about the release of their information.”

Steve Hoffman, a leader in Local 304 of Washington Federation of State Employees said, “They have the courts, bosses and practically all the institutions of society. We have solidarity and in the end that is enough if we stay strong. Union members are going to be mad and we need to give them opportunity to express their power.”

Attorney Laura Ewan said “We understand where the court is coming from.  The court is bound by what the Court of Appeals decided in the SEIU 775 case. But we feel like we have a chance on appeal…we are going after different information…  The legislature needs to do something, because this is not the intent of the Public Records Act.  The Public Records Act was there to be able to allow us to make sure our government is using our taxpayer dollars in the way that it is supposed to do. It is not to harass union members for their decision to be union members…  We are going to keep fighting.” The judge did not grant their request for an emergency stay, but won a commitment from the Freedom Foundation to wait until Tuesday, August 2, to receive workers private information from the many State agencies impacted by the decision.

Patrick Burns, a union carpenter who helped OWLS organize carpools from Seattle to the hearing, met with applause when he summed up the crowd’s sentiment, “an injury to one is an injury to all,” and vowed to continue fighting.


STOP the Freedom Foundation — Defend workers’ privacy rights

Fill the courtroom on July 29!

Support the motion, brought by several unions, for an injunction to block the Freedom Foundation’s demand for the name, birthdate and contact information of every union represented state employee.
Fri., July 29, 1:30pm, Thurston County House, Superior Court
2000 Lakeridge Drive SW, Olympia WA
Carpool from Seattle: Meet 10:30 am at Seattle Labor Temple, 1st and Broad
This court hearing will decide if the State of Washington must turn over union members’ private information to the ultra rightwing Freedom Foundation’s (FF).

The Foundation is bankrolled by big business associations. Its goals include pushing racist, union-busting “Right-to-Work” laws, and slashing public services. They use mailings, phone calls,  home visits, and TV ads to convince workers to dump their unions and “opt-out” of paying dues, bankrupting  the labor movement – our front line defender of public services and working people. Don’t let it happen!

Organized Workers for Labor Solidarity (OWLS) is carpooling to the hearing. Join the caravan! Wear union colors or a red T-shirt! For carpool info, call 206-261-1420.

Sponsored by Organized Workers for Labor Solidarity

Email OWLS@riseup.net; Visit OrganizedWorkers/facebook.com, Organizedworkers.org

The Freedom Foundation — Corporate Crooks in Disguise

OWLS Meeting — Tuesday, June 28, 7pm

In their endless drive to roll back the clock on workers’ rights, the Freedom Foundation has declared war on public-sector unions in Washington State and Oregon. Using the courts, legislature, and door-to-door campaigns, they are casting themselves as champions of the “little guy” against “big government.” Nothing could be further from the truth!

Find out who is behind this highly organized, well bank-rolled Foundation, and the real goals of their anti-freedom agenda.
Bring your ideas for how to build a united defense campaign against the anti-union attacks of the Freedom Foundation, and similar rightwing groups.

Also, learn about the latest labor battles around Puget Sound – or bring news of your own!



A highlight of the April 2016 Labor Notes Conference was a one-day strike by Chicago Teachers. This feisty union hit the streets to defend public education and linked up with parents and community to demand much more, including a higher minimum wage, an end to police brutality, and improved access to higher education. Doreen McGrath, an IBEW activist who attended the Labor Notes conference and joined the teachers picket line, reports on this exciting labor action.

Breaking News: Friedrichs loses in 4-4 ruling by Supreme Court

Today, March 29, 2016, The U.S. Supreme Court delivered a decision in the Friedrichs case, recognizing that stripping public employees of their voices in the workplace is not what our country needs.

The 4-4 decision essentially upholds the 1977 Abood v. Detroit Board of Education. The OWLS Petition, Reject Friedrichs, Honor Unions, had more than 1,000 signers calling on the court to uphold the union shop, and helped initiate an important conversation within the labor movement of how to fight the growing threat of “Right to Work” — or better called No Rights At Work.
Thank you to all the activists who signed the OWLS petition. Let’s celebrate this victory as the discussion begins on how to push back.gJQUGCWaxuiCaqS-800x450-noPad

Reject Friedrichs! Honor Unions!



Below is a petition that Organized Workers for Labor Solidarity has initiated. The online version can be accessed by clicking on the link above. Please sign the petition, post it on facebook, and share widely. Let’s crank up the heat on the Justices! For paper copies, call 206-261-1420.

To the U.S. Supreme Court:

We, the undersigned, support the right of Public Employees to unionize as upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1977. Public Employee Unions have the right to require that everyone they represent pay a “fair share” or “agency” fee to cover the union’s costs to negotiate and enforce a contract that covers all the public employees, even those who choose not to be union members.

Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, is a thinly veiled anti-labor attack on all workers and public-sector employees in particular.

By accepting this case, after it was soundly rejected by the Appeals Court, the Supreme Court threatens to gut the collective rights of workers and further entrench the power of big business. History proves that strong unions work to level the economic playing field. The weakening of unions correlates directly with the drastic worsening of income inequality and the extreme concentration of wealth among a small minority.

We call on the Supreme Court to reject the Friedrichs case in its entirety, uphold the Appeals Court decision and uphold the 1977 decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education

(This petition and all signatures will be mailed to the U.S. Supreme Court.)




OWLS Holiday Party!

Saturday, December 19, 7pm — Celebrate the 2015 Year of Labor Solidarity with OWLS … and help raise some dough to help raise more hell for workers’ rights in 2016! Potluck.
4117 Wallingford Avenue N. Seattle. 206-632-1022 for directions. See you there!

Message from King County Labor Council

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

There are two important actions on Wednesday, June 10th your help is needed on.

The first is to support the Amazon security workers who’ve been battling the huge corporation to demand fair treatment, an end to retaliation for union activity, an end to discrimination and – of course – the right to union recognition and decent wages and working conditions.

The workers are organizing with SEIU Local 6. They’ve joined forces with Teamsters Local 117, Transit Riders Union, Tenants Union of Washington, Working Washington and others to let Amazon shareholders know that Seattle demands responsible behavior from our corporate tenants.  Please join us:

Amazon shareholders meeting, Wednesday, June 10th, 8:00 – 10:00 am

Seattle Repertory Theatre, 155 Mercer, at 2nd Avenue N

Demand Good Jobs, Public Transit, Affordable Housing, Diverse Workforce

 Later that day, we’ll join Familias Unidas por Justicia to tell PCC that they should stop selling Driscoll berries until Driscoll stops buying their berries from Sakuma Brothers.Farmworkers at Sakuma Brothers Farms in Burlington are demanding fair treatment, decent working conditions and the right to their union.

For over a year they’ve been working to get union recognition and a union contract. They’ve taken job actions including strikes, and built a base of community support. Sakuma Brothers tried to replace them with 438 H-2A immigrants, pretending that labor wasn’t available, but was forced to back down. The workers are asking for a boycott of Sakuma Brothers berries, a boycott endorsed by the Washington State Labor Council.

 Tell PCC: No Driscoll berries!

Wednesday, June 10th, 5:30-7:00 pm

PCC Fremont, 600 N 34th Street

(Just north of the Fremont Bridge & west of Fremont Avenue)

Please come to one or both actions – and wear your union colors!

In solidarity,

MLKCLC Mobilization Committee


The article below, published in the Olympian, calls out the State Senate for breaking the law in its refusal to fully fund labor contracts that were negotiated by public sector unions, on behalf of state employees. Call your State Senator and urge them to do whatever necessary to  FULLY FUND STATE LABOR CONTRACTS NOW! — OWLS

Republican Sen. Andy Hill, front, speaks about the chamber’s budget proposal, Tuesday, March 31, 2015, in Olympia, Wash. The plan seeks to put more money into the state’s basic education system without raising taxes. (AP Photo/Rachel La Corte)

By Rachel La Corte

Senate Republicans offered a budget plan this week that is creative in the way it shifts funds and takes other steps to meet a balanced budget goal – without raising taxes. It is full of as yet unexamined budget complexities but one thing is obvious: It balances the books too heavily on the backs of state employees.

The Senate plan rejects union contracts – negotiated with Gov. Jay Inslee’s labor team – that otherwise would raise most general government workers’ pay by 4.8 percent over two years. These are state workers who last saw a general wage increase in July 2008 – more than six years ago.

In its place Senate budget writers, led by Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond, are offering flat $1,000 per year raises to state agency workers – regardless of pay level.

Of course, such a move would be illegal.

Under the Personnel Reform Act of 2002, state workers were given the right to bargain collectively with the governor, and lawmakers were given only the right to reject or accept ratified contracts through the budgeting process.

The Legislature has no right to impose terms or dictate what raises should be. Rather, if lawmakers failed to ratify or accept the contracts, Inslee and unions would go back to the table and negotiate all over again. In the meantime, terms of old contracts – which had no pay raises – would remain in effect.

When Hill outlined his plan Tuesday, he said it saves taxpayers upward of $500 million compared to what full funding of contracts would entail. It does that mainly by rejecting most of the roughly two-dozen contracts negotiated between unions and Inslee. About $40 million is saved by no longer covering spouses of state employees who have access to health plans at their own jobs.

The Senate Majority Coalition Caucus budget does provide cost-of-living raises for K-12 teachers and also home care workers. But unlike the governor’s and House Democrats’ budget plans, the Senate does not provide extra funds for K-12 staffers beyond the cost-of-living raises required under Initiative 732.

The other budgets add extra funds for K-12 pay because teachers, like line workers in general government, have not seen general wage hikes since 2008.

Hill’s budget also shows some cunning. He offers pay raises of $1,000 per year for state workers regardless of salary level. Hill said the goal there is to get at the problem of wage inequality.

That’s a claim that labor unions are finding hard to swallow.

“I would say they are interested in the politics of resentment – pitting workers against each other. Just like the playbook of pitting private sector worker against public sector workers,” said Greg Devereux, executive director for the Washington Federation of State Employees, the largest state-worker union. “It’s intended to be divisive. It’s very clever.”

Devereux has a point.

Lawmakers would be wise to follow the lead of House Democrats whose budget plan, like that of Inslee, fully funds the contracts.

Read more here: http://www.theolympian.com/2015/04/03/3658025_senate-pay-plan-is-wrong-solution.html?rh=1#storylink=cpy


Safety is a Life and Death Issue at Tesoro Refinery

Report on the OWLS Meeting of March 24, 2015

Three retired refinery workers, Tom Montgomery, Dennis O’hern, and Doug Erlandson, gave a gripping account of how dangerous refinery work is, underscoring why safety was the major issue in the recent national refinery strike.  Insurance costs for US refineries are five times higher than in Europe. The corporations who own US refineries have purposely neglected their OSHA mandate to provide a safe work environment for their employees for the purpose of maximizing profits. US refineries typically rely on equipment that has surpassed their functional life span. The State of Washington found that the horrendous 2010 tragedy at Tesoro Refinery in Anacortes, WA was “preventable.” On the picket line OWLS members learned that workers had long warned management that the heat exchanger responsible for the accident needed to be replaced. It was replaced only after 7 Tesoro employees were killed in an explosion at Tesoro.

Every refinery process is dangerous. Dennis O’hern called the deaths of 6 refinery workers in the 1998 Anacortes Equilon fire, “murder.” These workers were working on the coke exchanging process. Coke is the last byproduct of petroleum. It is a sludge that ends up in one of two massive drums. These drums are under extreme pressure and very hot. The two drums are filled and emptied at staggered times. While one drum is being filled, the other is being emptied on a sixteen hour rotation. Normally, the drums are cooled down by steam to safely open them. A power outage disrupted the process and the steam ports which normally cooled the coke had become plugged. L&I investigators later determined the drum needed 262 days to cool down. The process engineers ordered the drum opened thirty hours after power was reinstated. A warning by the night shift to the day shift went unheeded. Five workers and a supervisor perished. Refinery workers understand the message from their employers, “Your lives don’t matter.” On average a refinery worker dies every ten days. And the death rate is far higher among non-union refinery workers.

The particulars of the new contract are not being made available yet. Members ratified the deal the day before the OWLS meeting. It must have held enough promise for improvement, but as some of the United Steel Workers flyers pointed out, the companies have made big promises before and failed to follow through. The contract is settled, but this fight is not over. OWLS will be keeping an eye on this industry and will support the Steel Workers in their ongoing fight for safety in the Oil Refinery Industry.

Ongoing Labor Battles:

A contract has been signed by adjunct professors at Bellevue College while Seattle University is still trying to block union efforts of its adjunct professors.

Seattle Solidarity Network continues its fight against miscreant employers and landlords.  A day laborer is still fighting for 9 days of wages stolen from him while working for a landscaping contractor. Sea Sol has organized a number of actions to win back the wages. Also Sea Sol is helping one of its members regain a stolen rent deposit.

There is upheaval at Group Health Hospital (GH). Hiring has been suspended along with cutbacks of staff. GH  is selling off prime property on Capitol Hill and has closed the doors of its birth clinic.

The Space Needle Restaurant sent a letter to employees promising to increase employee wages if they voted out the union. This proves the owners, Howard S. Wright Corporation, could easily pay very good wages to all employees union or non-union. If the Space Needle workers fall for this ruse, the day will come when their employer will decide to reduce wages. Don’t give up that union!