Big-money conservatives put target on Washington

SEATTLE — The American Legislative Exchange Council is taking aim at both unions and retirees — and it’s got allies here in Washington state to help.

RetiredALEC5That was the warning that Joe Kendo, the legislative and policy director for the Washington State Labor Council, gave to members of the IAM 751 Retirement Club at their September business meeting.

The Retirement Club provides educational and social activities for retired IAM 751 members and their spouses, with an emphasis on issues that are important to seniors.

The council — commonly known as ALEC — “has all these model bills, and many of them have to do with labor, and different ways to erode labor rights and union strength,” Kendo said in an interview following the presentation.

ALEC also promotes legislation that would directly harm seniors, including efforts to privatize Social Security and Medicare.

Kendo said ALEC is funded by a network of corporations and conservative billionaires, like the infamous Koch Brothers, who give hundreds of millions of dollars to “big funding clearing houses,” like the group Americans for Prosperity.

Those groups in turn fund ALEC’s nationwide network that promotes ultra-conservative laws in each of the 50 states, with the goal of getting those laws passed on a state-by-state level.

Kendo said the goal of his presentation was to inform Retirement Club members to what is happening on a national level — and how it relates to politics here in our state.

For example, the Olympia-based “Freedom” Foundation has received big-donor dollars to pursue an attack on unions, Kendo said. It has hired an executive director, Tom McCabe, who was forced out of his previous job as director of the Building Industry Association of Washington because he pursued “divisive and poisonous politics,” Kendo said.

McCabe’s tactics hurt Washington’s building industry, but they were a perfect fit for the “Freedom” Foundation, Kendo said.

Last year, conservative legislators backed by the “Freedom” Foundation introduced five anti-union bills in Olympia, which would have weakened unions by doing such things as making it easier for state workers to avoid paying dues or agency fees to the unions that negotiate and enforce their employment contracts. Another bill would have forced unions and state agencies to negotiate employment agreements in public forums open to the news media.

None of those bills made it out of the Legislature, Kendo said.

The “Freedom” Foundation has gone beyond that with campaigns to get teachers to decertify their unions, and by promoting anti-union ballot measures in four Washington cities that would essentially create local Right-to-Worse ordinances.

The “Freedom” Foundation is putting out a lot of misleading and inaccurate information in support of these anti-union measures, Kendo said. “It’s pretty sophisticated on one level, but it’s also pretty ham-fisted.”

ALEC and its allies here in Washington are working against the interests of unions and senior citizens alike, Keno said. “They’re all about empowering corporations.”

For more information on the IAM 751 Retirement Club, click here.



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