May 03, 2022

Watch out for misleading anti-union mail

Some Illinois AFSCME members have received mailers at their homes or email at their work email addresses from the so-called “Freedom Foundation,” also known as “Opt Out Today.”

The Freedom Foundation is a West Coast front group whose self-described mission is “bankrupting and defeating government unions.”

“If the Freedom Foundation name sounds familiar, it’s because this is the same billionaire-funded group that was behind the Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 case in 2018,” said AFSCME International President Lee Saunders. “They seek to destroy workers’ rights and derail labor unions while taking away workers’ freedom to demand a voice on the job and a seat at the table in the workplace.”

Although the mailers claim they want to help union members, their real agenda is to spread misinformation and distortions about AFSCME to try to push members to drop out of their union. If they can weaken public sector unions, workers won’t be able to collectively fight to protect pensions, to raise wages, or to improve benefits.

Keeping workers down

“They want to take away the power we have at the table,” said AFSCME Local 2912 President Susan Littlefield, who works at the city of Chicago. “It’s important to stay united against the attacks because they’re not going away. They’re trying to take what we have away from us.”

“These groups are funded in the shadows by people who want to destroy the only source of organized power for workers in our country, our unions,” Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch said. “They want to further consolidate power at the top and make sure that the rest of us don’t have a chance to have our voices heard.”

The Freedom Foundation/Opt Out Today is known for invading public employees' privacy with harassment by mail, email, phone, text, and web ads at home or work. It’s happening across the country.

Two special education teachers in Cleveland wrote an op-ed this March calling out “a deceptive pattern” in the Freedom Foundation’s mailings to union members like them: “They refer to the union as a third party that takes our money, when a union is inseparable from the membership. We are the union; we elect union leadership, and we pay dues because those resources keep our union functioning.”

Junk mail warning

“These mailers have been coming ever since they did the Janus case, and maybe a month ago, one message popped across our city of Joliet emails,” AFSCME Local 440 President David Gornick said. “They made it look almost like it was from AFSCME, but if you read it you realized, this ain’t AFSCME.”

Gornick talked to the city manager and was able to block the offender from sending emails through the city’s servers. “Our local is 100% union and they don’t fall for it. We know that they’re just trying to break our union.”

“Be on the lookout for any harassing communications from the Freedom Foundation or Opt Out Today,” Lynch said. “If you receive anything, let your local union and Council 31 know right away—and dump them in the trash. We'll let the Freedom Foundation know that we won't be pushed around, and we won't be fooled. It won’t work because we're 100% union, AFSCME Strong.”

“Let’s stay focused on why the Freedom Foundation is angry that we have a union, like fair pay, affordable health care, a secure retirement and a voice on the job,” Littlefield said. “We can’t get complacent because it can all be taken away.”

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