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Q & A with Tom McCabe, CEO of the Freedom Foundation
The Freedom Foundation operates in California, Washington and Oregon. Can you give us an update on your work following the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus decision last June? (In Janus, the court said that forcing public union members to pay “agency fees” violated their First Amendment rights.) How many public employee members have left the unions in Oregon and on the West Coast since the decision?
Since the ruling, we’ve been running a full-scale campaign to inform all government employees on the West Coast. This includes everything from mailers, emails, TV commercials, billboards and social media campaigns to visiting their homes and offices to tell them that they can leave.
So far, more than 41,000 people have opted out of their union with our assistance. Here in Oregon, SEIU 503’s membership has dropped by more than 20 percent since Janus, and some government agencies, such as the Department of Revenue, have suffered almost 50 percent in membership losses.
Unions are the Titanic and Janus was the iceberg. Except, instead of water gushing in, their members are gushing out.
There is a bill – HB2643 – pending before the Oregon Legislature that would empower the government to pay the union dues directly for those members who have “opted out” of the public employee unions and would, in addition, give those “opting out” members a pay cut. What is your reaction to this bill? Is it legal, constitutional? Does it have any chance of passing the Oregon legislature this session?
Government unions in Oregon are bleeding members and revenue since the Janus decision as a direct result of the Freedom Foundation’s efforts. This legislation is the only way they can continue to extract money from public employees and, by extension, the taxpayer.
Governor Kate Brown and Democrat leaders of the Oregon Legislature live in a liberal alternative universe where they rubber stamp anything the unions demand, even an unconstitutional measure like HB 2643.
When HB 2643 passes, the Freedom Foundation’s legal team will immediately sue in federal court to have the measure overturned.
In March 2018, in anticipation of the Janus decision, you hired 80 canvassers to make summer in-home visits to public employee union members. In the Bloomberg News, the Freedom Foundation’s Maxford Nelsen described the reason for the canvassers and the efforts: “Their employer isn’t going to tell them, and the union isn’t going to tell them, so it falls to organizations like the Freedom Foundation to take up that mantle and make sure that public employees are informed of their constitutional rights.”
How extensive was the training? How effective were the canvassers in their visits? What was the typical reception at the door like?
We spend about a week training our canvassers to inform government employees about their rights under Janus and answer basic questions they might be asked. Beyond that, they’re instructed to be courteous and respect the privacy of those they’re contacting.
Contrary to what you hear from the other side, the workers we interact with are overwhelmingly receptive to our message. And why shouldn’t they be?
We’re offering them a chance to keep their own money, make their own choices and force a union that sees them as nothing but a dollar sign to be more responsive to their needs. What’s not to like?
When we get to have a conversation with a union member at home, we have a 55 percent success rate in getting them out of the union.
The Northwest Accountability Project (NWAP), an organization that describes itself as “dedicated to shining a light on right-wing extremism,” recently paid for a half-page ad in local newspapers.
The ad stated that since Tom McCabe took over at the Freedom Foundation:
Union membership was at record highs for public-sector unions in the Northwest.
$1.4 million was spent on legal defense bills because of their nefarious activities.
California, Washington and Oregon have passed the most progressive, pro-worker agendas of any region in the nation.
Are any of the statements in this ad true?
NWAP spends a lot of money spreading lies, but it’s what they don’t advertise that really tells the story.
The group was formed and continues to be funded by government employee unions for the sole purpose of smearing the Freedom Foundation – an organization they hate because we are so effective.
In response to their claims:
Union membership in the Northwest is declining precipitously.
The Freedom Foundation did spend money to fight a lawsuit brought against us by the labor unions. Unions claimed we had “tortuously interfered in their business expectancy.” They asked a judge to force us to pay them $30 million in lost dues. The Freedom Foundation won this lawsuit. Currently, we have 55 ongoing lawsuits against the unions, costing the unions as least $10 million per year in legal fees.
Oregon, Washington and California have passed the most progressive “pro-union,” anti-worker, anti-freedom legislation in the nation.
This past summer, in response to the Supreme Court’s Janus decision, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said this about the ruling and your organization’s work:
“When members find out who’s pulling the strings, they get pissed, because they don’t want outsiders to hurt their freedom to earn a better life. We are confident that when members start getting harassed by these outside groups, they’ll be ready – not only to reject their assault but to become more active in their union.”
Bloomberg News had a different take onJanus:
“The big picture for organized labor is bleak following the high court’s ruling. In states with right-to-work laws, where it’s illegal to require workers to fund unions that are required to represent them, employees are already only half as likely to have union representation – or less. Such laws, and the Supreme Court opinion, have significant electoral consequences.”
Whose take is right about the future of the unions’ political influence?
We don’t have to speculate about that. Just look at the 2016 presidential election.
All the commentators, pundits and pollsters spent months afterward trying to explain how President Trump managed to confound all the projections, but the answer was very simple. For the most part, both he and Hilary Clinton carried the states they were expected to carry. But the glaring exceptions to that rule were Wisconsin and Michigan – both of which had enacted right-to-work protections since the previous election cycle.
When the unions in those states were deprived of millions of dollars they had always been able to simply seize from government workers, Democrats had less to spend on their Election Day ground game. And it made a difference.
Janus made right-to-work protections the law of the land all over the country. The question now is, what other states that the liberals have always taken for granted will suddenly be in play?
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown beat Knute Buehler by more than 6 percentage points this November. Buehler spent a record $19 million for a Republican candidate running for governor. But the public employees spent more than $40 million on behalf of Gov. Brown. Was the Janus decision just too late in the electoral cycle to have much impact on the political spending in this year’s Oregon gubernatorial contest? Will political spending in Oregon be more balanced in the future?
To put it simply, yes.
Government unions in Oregon spent years preparing for Janus. They had been cutting their operational budgets to ensure they had big money to spend this past election cycle. They now expect a payback from the politicians they helped elect in the form of “Janus damage control.”
In response, our legal team intends to make sure the unions in Oregon comply with the full scope of the decision.
Just last year we filed a lawsuit in Oregon,Chambers v. AFSCME, that demands unions reimburse everybody who opted out of their union before Janus. Union bosses violated the rights of these employees because they were still charging so-called agency fees which were found unconstitutional under Janus. We expect this to be in front of the U.S. Supreme Court and could remove tens of millions from the unions’ coffers and put it back in the pockets of public employees.
Labor 411 (an organization that produces directories of union-made products) gave out their 2018 Turkeys of the Year Awards. The Freedom Foundation ranked fourth, behind President Trump and the U.S. Supreme Court, but ahead of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Scott Walker and Amazon. That’s quite an accomplishment for a Northwest-based nonprofit.
Why do the public employee unions representing government workers continue to resort to this kind of juvenile vitriol and bullying? Is the verbal and physical harassment to you, your family and your organization better or worse since Janus?
Worse, but that’s a reflection of their desperation, and we wear it like a badge of honor. The Freedom Foundation is the only organization in the nation that takes on the unions in the courtroom and in the streets. And as a result, we’re the only organization relentlessly attacked by the unions – even earning national ranking as the #4 villain.
For decades, the entire liberal establishment – unions, the bureaucracy, the media, academia, the entertainment industry and leftist politicians – has been fueled to a huge extent by money diverted by force from public employees.
Janus has the potential to end all that, but it won’t happen if we just sit back and assume the law will be respected and enforced.
The other side has too much at stake to go down without a fight. The Freedom Foundation exists to win the fight.
By Bridget Barton
Blue, Blue Oregon
After last November's election results here in Oregon, it’s no wonder that everyday, hardworking, right-leaning voters wonder why we can’t do a better job with candidates and campaigns on the “right side” of the aisle. The reasons are simpler than you might think. They used to be more complicated, but after 30 years of losses, it’s gotten pretty simple.
Oregon is a small state, and unfortunately after all the losses, we have almost no full-time consultants to run races. No one to craft messages, no one to produce TV spots, no one professional to "manage" races – almost no one.
Some do it intermittently between their "day jobs" in lobbying, lawyering or running graphic design businesses. Their political work can sometimes show the effects of this split attention, and in some cases, conflict of interest.
On the other side of the aisle, the left has lots of well paid, full-time talent, while we have almost no one left to do this important work.
And it doesn't help that when we lose, these few are always the first to receive the blame. Donors naturally turn to out-of-state folks, who, needless to say, aren't any smarter or better, they just haven't had to lose in blue Oregon yet. After the 2018 cycle, we now have a whole new set of consultants to blame – both in and out of state.
What's really going on here? Why did we lose so big in 2018?
Because Oregon IS blue.
No matter how we tell voters our point of view, no matter how we explain the numbers, and the corruption, and the mistakes, no matter who we run, no matter how bad or how incredibly pathetic the opponents are (think Margaret Doherty, Tiffany Mitchell, Courtney Neron, Rachel Prusak or, for that matter, Kate Brown) – despite all of it, this IS what voters WANT.
It’s not some weird mistake. It's not that we need to explain it better or have catchier ads. It’s not that they have better data. It’s not that they’re better at social media. It's not that they don't understand our messages, that they don’t get it.
They do get it. It's us, it's all of us, who don’t get it … or can't get it through our heads. Voters want this.
The majority of Oregon voters truly believe in very liberal values. And what’s even more important for us to comprehend: For many voters, that's exactly why they moved here. They are blue enough, progressive enough, wacko leftist enough, committed Democrat enough to pack their bags, leave home, and move to Oregon to live among their comrades.
Vote counts are getting worse, not better. The blue wave is moving east into states like Montana and Arizona. The way things are going in Boise, pretty soon Idaho will be blue. The Trump election has probably hardened those numbers. Here in Oregon, NAVs swung left in some key districts – and they may stay there.
This hard reality in Oregon must be faced head on. There is already too much wasted discussion about whether we had the wrong message, wrong action plan, not enough ground game, too much money, too little money, or was it just the goatee?
This is not to say no one did anything wrong; plenty of mistakes were made. But any idiot knows the left simply has a better ground game. That's what 30 years of winning grows for you: a massive union infrastructure and literally thousands of people in government/union-paid positions of power and influence.
We lost big. We lost so many seats because Oregon IS blue. And yes, we all get it – the east side of the state is scantily populated with deeply red voters – just not enough to win any election statewide.
Jack Roberts recently did a quick analysis of the last 10 gubernatorial elections. We've run five conservative Republicans and five moderate Republicans. The result: zero wins. On almost any standard issue of the day, such as environmental policy, social issues or health care, it doesn’t matter how you run – conservative or moderate. You will still lose.
And despite the 5 point-or-so depressing affect of Trump this cycle, Trump is not the problem. The problem is that Oregon voters are dyed-in-the-wool Ds. Their hatred of Trump is borderline deranged, but they would have acted the same way had Kasich or Rubio been president – they would have voted Democrat.
But enough about the problem. Let's talk possible answers. Here’s a question: Is it possible that Knute Buehler was our Mitt Romney?
Maybe we need to be patient here. Maybe elected Republicans should commit to two years of radio silence – let the left go left, way left. Let them get sloppy with their big majority, because if allowed to, they will get sloppy. Let them ignore some key minorities in their own backyards. Let the taxes settle in on the voters.
Let the middle class, what’s left of it, begin to feel the full weight of their tax burden. After negotiating borderline corrupt exemptions for their friends/donors at NIKE and Intel, there’s just not enough money left in the state to fund the Democrats’ voracious tax appetite. The burden of all their virtue-signaling green laws and their climate change energy price increases will land squarely on the very voters who elected them. Fair’s fair.
That does make this a very good time to make a run for the border, if you are a business or a wealthy individual, or even a lucky PERS recipient who knows how to do math. Keep an eye on the exits – the lines might be starting to build.
But the strategy for those willing to stay behind (or unable to leave) should be: no negotiating, no bipartisanship on the horrible policies about to come our way. Let it burn.
The state and the conservative movement will be easier to fix from the ground up than to fix a half-burnt structure.
In 2013, Obama said of the vanishing middle class: “This is the defining issue of our times. This is the make or break moment for the middle class.” And then, of course, he proceeded to break the middle class to smithereens with his health care policy, his over-regulation on businesses and startups, and environmental policies that began the steady increase in energy prices. What followed was … well, his first name is Donald.
Issues like PERS or education or the government's despicable record on foster care – they matter to us as conservatives. But do they matter to the rest of Oregonians? No. The vote counts prove that, beyond debate. Republicans will never have an opportunity to reform these policies until they stop insisting on running on them. They are governing issues, NOT campaign issues.
We may be right on PERS and on health care, and on all the economic issues. Capitalism is better than socialism. And individual liberty is far better than the groupthink of the left. But we won't win elections because we are right on the political philosophy.
Eventually new leaders must focus on a few lower- to middle-class messages – find those pools of voters getting screwed, gettingpersonally screwed by the left.
Issues that are likely to directly impact and shape voters’ reactions in the coming years might be congestion, tolling, skyrocketing energy costs or senior health care costs. (Remember Wyden's first U.S. House win with his army of Gray Panthers?)
Keep your eyes on Europe, specifically France, Germany, Italy and the UK, and on Brazil and Venezuela to our south. Examine the roots of the riots, the disruption, and the public disgust with both parties on key issues that affect the massive middle.
The Wall Street Journal recently wrote, “The rich aren’t rich enough to fund the labor state, and labor and wealth are too mobile. The real money is in the middle class – whose labor is far easier to tax especially if it's disguised as a social ‘contribution.’”
Like Europe and our southern neighbors, we are about to begin to feel the effects of the left’s sharp move toward socialism. The only question is how long it will take our numbers to catch up to theirs, or how long before we respond like them.
Democrats are going to get sloppy with their big majority, just like they have in Europe, and they will start to inflict real pain on significant minority groups of voters on some deeply personal pocketbook issues.
Find those. Focus on those.
Oregon’s Middle-class Squeeze: Cap-and-Trade
Cap-and-trade is coming to Oregon. And it’s going to hit everyday Oregonians hardest.
Cap-and-trade is pitched as a market-based system to reduce the state’s carbon emissions from about 60 million tons of carbon dioxide each year to about 10 million tons a year by 2050. At 60 million tons, Oregon accounts for about one-tenth of 1 percent of the world’s carbon emissions.
The bill is being hashed out behind closed doors and none of the details have been released. However, some broad concepts have been reported.
Under cap-and-trade, the state would implement a limit on carbon emissions beginning in 2021. This limit would decline over the next 30 years. The state assigns each ton of permitted carbon a “credit.” The credits are either sold by the state or allocated for free based on past emissions. Companies that need more credits can buy them on the open market and companies who don’t need all the credits they’ve been allocated can sell them. In a well-functioning market for credits, the trading of credits determines the price of carbon in the state. Because the number of credits declines over time, the price of credits would be expected to rise over time, with the higher prices passed on to households in the form of higher utility bills, gas prices, and throughout the consumer supply chain.
While the economics of cap-and-trade are relatively straightforward, the politics is a mess. Just about every single cap-and-trade scheme is plagued by special exemptions, the allocation of “free” credits, political favoritism, and pushback from industries subject to the caps. Already, Oregon’s system has been hit with the plague:
Electric utilities (33 percent of the state’s emissions) have been promised that they will receive their allocation of credits for free;
Timber and agriculture (8 percent of the state’s emissions) are likely to be exempt from the caps;
Manufacturing and industrial companies, particularly those that are described as “emissions-intensive-trade-exposed” (3 percent of the state’s emissions) – such as semiconductor manufacturers, pulp and paper manufacturers, and food processors, have seen indications that they would be exempt.
With more than 40 percent of the state’s emissions exempt or subject to favorable treatment, much of the burden will be borne by the transportation sector. With fuel for watercraft and aviation likely to be exempt from the caps, much of the transportation burden will come in higher prices for gasoline and diesel, which are estimated to be 14 cents per gallon higher under cap-and-trade. This would give Oregon the third highest gas prices in the U.S., behind Hawaii and California.
It is well known that higher gas prices hit lower income and rural residents hardest. Lower income households tend to have older vehicles with higher fuel consumption per mile driven. Rural residents tend to drive longer distances. In addition, as higher fuel prices are factored into higher retail prices for food, clothing and other goods, lower income residents will feel a bigger pinch.
Money from selling credits to fuel suppliers raises legal questions about how the state could use the revenue. A broad reading of the Oregon Constitution mandates that the revenues from the sale of carbon credits go into the state’s highway trust fund. Backers of cap-and-trade intend to use these revenues exclusively for programs that “decarbonize” transportation, such as charging stations for electric vehicles, rather than improving roads or adding to road capacity.
Oregon’s cap-and-trade plan is shaping up to be an experiment in cronyism, with special interests getting special treatment, while ordinary Oregonians face higher fuel, grocery and utility prices.
All in the name of a microscopic reduction in global carbon emissions.