Free Speech for All: Unless You Are Talking About the Left, Then They Sue!

Everyone agrees that free speech is a great thing--unless someone is calling out a leftist group for their behavior; in those cases, the left views such speech as unacceptable, intolerable, and might even end up filing a lawsuit (or three) against you just for expressing your views and opinions.

This situation is unfolding prominently the State of Washington. The Washington Examiner has recently reported this story. The SEIU v. Freedom Foundation:

Did you know that just telling union members about their rights under federal law can bring misery down on your head? Just ask the Freedom Foundation, a state think tank based in Olympia, Wash[ington], which has recently suffered outrageously aggressive legal harassment from the Service Employees International Union. The SEIU has ginned up three separate lawsuits against the Freedom Foundation and also persuaded the state's attorney general to sue the think tank. At issue: the Freedom Foundation's effort to talk to more than 50,000 people dragooned into becoming SEIU members about their legal right to opt out.


These particular members ended up owing dues to the SEIU because of a dodgy scam the union pulled off with the help of friendly politicians to skim from the benefits paid out to indigent home care patients. The "members" in question didn't ask to join the SEIU; they're simply Washingtonians who receive state Medicaid payments to care for disabled loved ones — an ailing parent, say, or a handicapped child, who would otherwise require more expensive institutional care. . . . As has happened in several other Democrat-controlled states, the union got the governor to invent a shell corporation that supposedly "employs" persons receiving such Medicaid payments. Then, the state had a mail-in "election" on unionization of these home care workers, in which very few benefit-recipients even realized what was happening. . . .


The Freedom Foundation estimates the state SEIU skims something like $25 million a year through this scheme. The same outrage occurs in other states, and the injustice led the U.S. Supreme Court (in its 2014 decision Harris v. Quinn) to hold that individual home care providers in this situation cannot be forced to join or pay a union. "The First Amendment," the court declared, "prohibits the collection of an agency fee from the plaintiffs in the case, home healthcare providers who do not wish to join or support a union.". . .

In an attempt to call SEIU out on this, Freedom Foundation launched a campaign to reach out to several "members" to notify them of their rights and ability to opt-out:

The SEIU hasn't taken kindly to this. Last September, the union and its affiliates filed three lawsuits against the Freedom Foundation. They even hired three separate law firms for the barrage of suits, inundating the foundation with intimidating subpoenas, depositions and discovery demands. The SEIU even convinced Washington State attorney general Bob Ferguson to file lawsuits against the Foundation. . . The Freedom Foundation filed a counterclaim against the SEIU for "abuse of process". . . .

The Court appointed a "Special Discovery Master," who recently handed down a potentially damning ruling to SEIU's case. Recently, he ruled in the initial stages of the case: "I do not find that SEIU has demonstrated that the Freedom Foundation has wrongfully communicated with SEIU members or used SEIU's confidential information to harass SEIU members or employees. The Freedom Foundation is entitled to contact SEIU members, and prior restraint of its efforts to do so is impermissible."

While free speech has won this initial hurdle, a greater contest is potentially on the horizon. Censorship of ideas and expression is not how this country was formed. Ideas and principles should be freely debated, not held hostage to threats of retribution.