What is a public record?
A public record is any state or local record relating to the conduct of government or the performance of a governmental function, and is prepared, used or retained by any state or local agency. A public record can exist in any form such as: writing, recordings, photos, or emails. Public records are maintained by state and governmental agencies. The Evergreen State College maintains a public records website http://www.evergreen.edu/publicrecords/ and employs a public records officer whose role is to insure that TESC is in compliance with the Washington State Public Records Act (RCW 42.56). For comprehensive information about RCW 42.56 see: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=42.56
Who made the request and what is the information they are seeking?
This public records request was made by the Freedom Foundation on April 14, 2016. The UFE was first notified of this request by TESC’s public records office on Friday afternoon, May 20, 2016. The information requested by the Freedom Foundation includes the following: “The first name, last name, middle initial, birthdate and work email address of every current Evergreen State College employee represented by the United Faculty of Evergreen as part of the bargaining unit certified by the Public Employment Relations Commission in Case 20368-E-06-3150.” Because the UFE represents all faculty members, all faculty are subject to this request.
Who is the Freedom Foundation?
The Freedom Foundation aggressively conducts legal and public relations campaigns against labor unions, workers and their families nationally and locally. The Freedom Foundation is also connected to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) which promotes extremist issues ranging from anti-immigrant SB 1070 in Arizona to dismantling voting rights, challenging climate change as well as environmental protections.
Organizations like the Freedom Foundation refer to themselves as “think tanks” but operate as non-profits. They serve as front groups for extremist donors who oppose raising the minimum wage, threaten public education, challenge paid sick leave, attack LGBQT rights, and imperil women’s reproductive rights. To see what the Freedom Foundation says about themselves, see their website: http://www.myfreedomfoundation.com/
In a concerted effort to turn Washington into a “right to work” state and dismantle our right to representation and collective bargaining, the Freedom Foundation has made public record requests to other state agencies. These state institutions include:
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
COMMUNITY COLLEGES OF SPOKANE
EVERETT COMMUNITY COLLEGE
DEPARTMENT OF EARLY LEARNING
DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE
DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES
DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE
DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS
DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL AND HEALTH SERVICES
DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS
DEPARTMENT OF ECOLOGY
DEPARTMENT OF ENTERPRISE SERVICES
EMPLOYMENT SECURITY DEPARTMENT
GREEN RIVER COMMUNITY COLLEGE
HEALTH CARE AUTHORITY
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH
WASHINGTON HORSE RACING COMMISSION
WASHINGTON HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION
DEPARTMENT OF LICENSING
LABOR AND INDUSTRIES
LOWER COLUMBIA COLLEGE
WASHINGTON MILITARY DEPARTMENT
OFFICE OF INSURANCE COMMISSIONER
OFFICE OF WOMEN AND MINORITY BUSINESS ENTERPRISES
SEATTLE COLLEGE DISTRICT
SHORELINE COMMUNITY COLLEGE
SOUTH PUGET SOUND COMMUNITY COLLEGE
THE EVERGREEN STATE COLLEGE
WASHINGTON UTILITIES AND TRANSPORTATION COMMISSION
WASHINGTON STATE PATROL
WHATCOM COMMUNITY COLLEGE
WORKFORCE TRAINING AND EDUCATION COORDINATING BOARD
As a result, we stand in solidarity with our sister colleges & institutions who have received public records requests from the Freedom Foundation.
Who funds them?
The Freedom Foundation’s donors include the Koch Brothers. The foundation maintains financial ties to other groups such as the Donors Trust, the Searle Foundation, the Walmart Foundation, and the Murdock Charitable Trust. All have a history of funding and supporting an anti-union agenda. For more information about The Freedom Foundation funding, see the SourceWatch website at: http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Evergreen_Freedom_Foundation
Why does the Freedom Foundation want our birth dates?
The Freedom Foundation, according to its spokesperson, Max Nelson, stated in an April 29 story published by KPLU that “Our goal is to make sure public employees are informed of their rights, are practically able to exercise them, and we think there’s a lot of work to be done to give public employees more control over their workplace representation.”
Some of our sister unions have challenged the Freedom Foundation’s request for birth dates, particularly as they pertain to privacy. For example, on April 27, 2016 the Washington Federation of State Employees/AFSCME Council 28 asked the Thurston County Superior Court to stop the release of the birth dates of state employees in several agencies. A hearing is expected in two to three weeks (by the end of May 2016). For more information about the WFSE case see sidebar and these links: http://wfse.org/injunction-request-filed/ and http://wfse.org/info-release-delayed-51316/
What to expect regarding this public records request? What’s next?
We are in ongoing consultation with our state affiliates, the Washington Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. We are mindful of RCW 42.56.230 which calls into question three points: 1) whether records contain personal information; 2) whether employees have a privacy interest in that personal information; and, 3) whether disclosure of that personal information would violate their right to privacy. Currently, birth dates do not appear to meet RCW 42.56.230 personal information criteria. For more info on personal information see RCW 42.56. 230: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=42.56.230
We will also consider RCW 42.56.050 which is used to determine whether the right to privacy exists in a specific record. A person’s right to privacy is invaded or violated only if disclosure of information about the person would be: 1) highly offensive to a reasonable person; and 2) is not of legitimate concern to the public. See: http://app.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=42.56.050
In sum, the Freedom Foundation has solicited this information in accordance with Washington state law. Faculty can expect to receive emails or perhaps even a knock on their door in order to threaten the existence of our union. We will provide updates on our website regarding any further developments. We will continue to use this site to provide information in accordance with the Public Ethics Board policy regarding the use of non-state resources for these communications.
Thank you for your support.
The UFE Coordinating Committee