Judge rules tens of thousands of names of state workers must be released to Freedom Foundation

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- In a Thurston County courthouse on Friday, Freedom Foundation, a conservative think tank, fought for a public records release of tens of thousands of names, all state workers belonging to some of the largest unions.

“These records should be issued immediately,” an attorney for Freedom Foundation said.

But lawyers for the various state labor unions tried to convince Thurston County Judge Mary Sue Wilson that the release of names, emails and date of births of their members is an invasion of privacy, politically motivated to weaken labor unions.

“To go on a fishing expedition to be able to go to people’s homes,” an attorney for the labor unions said.

“They want to privatize the work we do and break our unions, give them our information, you better be kidding me,” AFSCME member Steve Hoffman said.

But the Freedom Foundation says not all union members feel that way and they want to contact each individual state worker to tell them where their union dues are going.

“Through their union dues, state employees and teachers and public workers are funding political campaigns that they may or may not agree with,” Max Nelsen of Freedom Foundation said.

The group says their research shows some unions use general dues to fund political agendas and they want members to know they can opt out of paying for politics

“To us, this matter is about individual liberty and free speech,” Nelsen said.

But many union members who showed up to court say the foundation has an ulterior motive.

“They want to skew the picture and bad mouth our union,” Hoffman said.

But in the eyes of the court, laws surrounding public records requests are clear.

“I cannot conclude that the requested information is exempt,” Wilson said.

The judge sided with the Freedom Foundation, saying the unions could not give a profound reason why they should be exempted from the law, giving them until next week to comply with the ruling.

The state labor unions will be filing an appeal, hoping a higher court will issue an emergency stay. But if the higher court does not rule in their favor, they will have to hand over tens of thousands of names by Tuesday morning.