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John Batchelor


Rantz: Labor front group hiding in plain sight

Recently, Working Washington appears to be trying to hide their affiliation, KIRO Radio's Jason Rants says. (AP)

A funny thing happened on Twitter the other day: an otherwise routine (and mostly fair) criticism lead to me uncovering a labor union front group hiding in plain sight. Well, I’m being a bit dramatic. I’ve always known that Working Washington was a labor union group masquerading as a grassroots activist organization. But recently, they appear to be trying to hide their affiliation.

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On Feb. 20, Working Washington criticized the Tacoma News Tribune for failing to disclose the political ideology of a guest writer representing the Employment Policies Institute. EPI is a right-of-center organization.

Working Washington, via Twitter, complained that simply disclosing the organization didn’t go far enough. Though I don’t share what Working Washington seems to imply — that the reader is too lazy to look up the group on their own — I do think it’s best practice to acknowledge the group’s ideological perspective.

But this criticism is rather ironic because Working Washington is a front group for big labor and they go out of their way to make sure you don’t know that. They don’t disclose this information on their Twitter account; if you read their bio, you’d think they’re just some grassroots organization, not a labor union group. I also can’t easily find any disclosure on their website. When I pointed out their failure to disclose this information, they tweeted back that they’re “…not a union no matter how you wish it were so” and when I pushed them to explain if they’re funded by a labor union, they responded “like almost all nonprofit groups we have diverse sources of funding. Boring that you continue to pretend not to grasp that.”

That’s cute. But also shamelessly disingenuous and it’s clear why they’re so defensive.

As the right-of-center Freedom Foundation’s Maxford Nelson pointed out to me in an email, Working Washington receives a boat load of money from SEIU affiliates:

Federal records indicate Working Washington received $3,292,072 from SEIU affiliates in 2013, $2,736,053 from SEIU affiliates in 2014, and $2,620,827 from SEIU affiliates in 2015 (not counting an additional $25,000 thrown in by Teamsters Local 117).

Nelson goes on to explain that their board of directors is full of SEIU officials, their staff is filled with current and former SEIU employees, their website domain is registered under the national SEIU, and they just happen to also operate out of the same building as SEIU 775.

While fighting on behalf of SEIU-backed policies, Working Washington seldom proactively discloses this information. For example, when they went after State Senator Matt Manweller in an outrageous attack, it might have been ethical to point out that SEIU would benefit financially from passing policies Manweller opposes.

I reached out to Sage Wilson, spokesperson for Working Washington, and he declined to comment to my questions for this story.

Is any of this information damning? Not to me. Does it take away from any of the work they do? Not at all. You either support what they do or you don’t. I’m not even sure why they’d try to downplay this connection in Washington of all places. But to slam others for withholding a bias when you engage in nearly the exact same behavior? Well, that deserves to be called out.

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