A vote count by Ryder Election Services early this morning has confirmed that SEIU 503 members have voted overwhelmingly—by 91 percent of ballots cast—to reject a Freedom Foundation attack on our union and their personal privacy by changing their union’s corporate non-profit status.
According to SEIU 503 member Natalie Jackson, “To me, this vote was not just about standing with my union, but standing up for myself. As a child care provider, the idea of random people and groups having access to my home address is beyond unacceptable—it’s downright scary. I’m thrilled that we stood together as union members and made a stand to protect our privacy.”
This vote is a resounding rejection of an attack on SEIU 503 members’ privacy orchestrated by the Freedom Foundation—an anti-union group based in Washington that has been trying for years to obtain union membership lists. Through a media blitz consisting of paid ads, “alternative fact” editorials, podcasts and multiple radio show appearances, the group had been encouraging SEIU 503 members to vote against our own self-interest for weeks.
SEIU 503 Executive Director Brian Rudiger believes the Freedom Foundation’s actions actually galvanized members to vote “yes” on corporate status change. “With every radio ad, podcast, radio interview or editorial Freedom Foundation staff authored, we would get another wave of calls from members wanting to know how to vote ‘yes’ on the measure. I think their outreach drove home the fact that the threats against their union—and their personal privacy— are real.”
The Freedom Foundation’s stated mission is to “bankrupt and defeat government unions through education, litigation, legislation and community activation.” Realizing this message would not resonate with union workers in Oregon, the group is now trying to rebrand themselves as an organization that is “Not anti-union, but pro-worker and pro-workers’ rights.” What they say to their funders is a different story.
The corporate status change will now be filed with the Oregon Secretary of State. According to SEIU 503 President Steve Demarest, the union will be watching the Freedom Foundation’s next steps closely. “Now that the members of SEIU 503 have spoken decisively on this issue, it will be interesting to see if the Freedom Foundation acknowledges members’ choice, or continues to try to circumvent and undermine workers’ near-unanimous voices.”