Last week, the Mail Tribune printed an opinion piece ostensibly about the Oregon transportation package that was, in effect, little more than a hit piece aimed at my union. The Mail Tribune readers deserve to know a little more about the piece’s author, Ben Straka, and the organization he represents.
The Washington-based Freedom Foundation, which employs Straka, does not care about transportation in Oregon. They don’t care about Oregon’s working families, our wages, our health care or education funding for our children. That’s because the Freedom Foundation has one singular objective: to defund our union and other progressive causes.
It’s the objective set forth by their out-of-state billionaire funders, which was recently detailed in an exposé written by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. According to the article, a leaked document highlighted that the Freedom Foundation’s mission was “to defund big labor.” This has been echoed by Freedom Foundation staff on numerous occasions, including their Oregon State Director Anne Marie Gurney when she screamed to a room of Republican activists that, in regard to labor unions: “We’re here to defund you!”
It’s a simple plan, and one that their billionaire backers have been driving for decades. Ultimately, their agenda aims to increase profits for the CEOs and large corporations who fund them. They are the front group that does everything to attack working families, which includes showing up at our houses and harassing us and frivolously suing our union. When SEIU 503 fights for homecare workers like me — workers who will be disproportionately harmed by the taxes in the transportation package — the Freedom Foundation spins it and uses it as an opportunity to bash us.
I have been an active member of SEIU 503 for more than 10 years. In that time, I have fought many battles. I fought hard to help Oregon pass its landmark minimum wage increase in 2016. The previous year, I fought alongside other homecare workers to win a paid sick leave law and to ensure that all workers in Oregon have access to a safe and secure retirement plan. We’ve also fought to expand the services that homecare workers provide, such as Medicaid-funded care for seniors and people with disabilities. These are good causes that I believe have made our state a better place to live for everyone, not just union members.
The Freedom Foundation has opposed us at every step of the way. They have repeatedly opposed minimum wage increases in Washington and Oregon; they wrote a national report that argued against paid sick leave for all; and they recently signed on to a coalition that is trying to cut the retirement security of families who work for the state of Oregon.
Make no mistake. The Freedom Foundation does not care about the working people of Oregon. They’re only here to make it harder for us to stick together.
— Rebecca Sandoval is a homecare worker who lives in Medford.