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State Employees Upset About Freedom Foundation's Requests For Their Birth Dates

“Legislative Building and Temple of Justice” by Dan Ox is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Tens of thousands of state workers in Washington are the target of unusual public records requests  from an anti-union group asking for their birth dates. 

The requests came from the Freedom Foundation, a conservative think tank based in Olympia that’s targeting public sector unions. On its web site, the group says it wants to “reverse the stranglehold public-sector unions have on our government.” 

But many state workers don’t want their birth dates released out of privacy concerns, according to Tim Welch, spokesman for the Washington Federation of State Employees.

"Our members are outraged by this," Welch said. "They don’t know why any group would need that information."

The union is asking a Thurston County Superior Court judge to block the release of its members’ birth dates.

The Freedom Foundation’s Director of Labor Policy, Max Nelson, said his group may amend its requests to just birth day and month and not ask for the year.

He said the group’s goal is to contact state workers and let them know they don’t have to pay their full union dues; they can pay a smaller amount called an agency fee that covers the costs of collective bargaining.

"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," Nelson said.

Nelson wouldn’t say whether the ultimate goal is to reduce public sector unions’ political muscle by weakening them financially, but labor groups say that is the aim.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.