Orange County Home Caregivers Among Those Targeted for Harassment by Shadowy Right-Wing Group

For Immediate Release
Tuesday, May 17, 2018
Contact: Cherie Parker (619) 806-4677

Explosive report by The Guardian exposes anti-union “toolkit” funded by Koch brothers, Walmart Family Foundation and Freedom Foundation on eve of Janus vs. AFSCME decision

Home care workers in Orange County who provide care through California’s Medicaid-funded In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program are up against an ominous threat as they bargain to raise their wages out of poverty and protect IHSS: An $80 million “war chest” funded by 66 right-wing thinktanks including the Koch brothers, the Walton Family Foundation and the Washington state-based Freedom Foundation and run by a shadowy umbrella organization called the State Policy Network (SPN). These revelations come on the eve of an expected anti-union U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of Janus vs. AFSCME and demand a strong response by elected officials in defense of working families.

Though the Freedom Foundation’s attacks on union members in Orange County have been ongoing, a May 15 report in The Guardian unearthed documents–including an anti-union “toolkit”–that once and for all verify that SPN and the Freedom Foundation’s ultimate goal is to wipe out labor unions altogether. That this frontal assault on a fundamental American right is being waged most aggressively against those caring for seniors and people with disabilities is especially vile; that it is taking place during a severe housing crisis when caregivers struggle to make ends meet could lead to economic catastrophe.

The documents obtained by The Guardian advise SPN members to target workers individually to opt-out of their union rights by using public record laws to find names, addresses and phone numbers. This “toolkit” is especially effective in Orange County, where the county officials have given SPN affiliates carte blanche to harass caregivers. A recent report by Capital and Main detailed how the Freedom Foundation has been allowed since January of this year to interfere in new caregiver orientations. With the blessing of Orange County, the Freedom Foundation is trying to keep new IHSS providers from communicating with their union–United Domestic Workers (UDW/AFSCME 3930). Caregivers who fall for the Freedom Foundation pitch do not learn that UDW fights to raise IHSS provider pay, improve their benefits, and protect funding for the IHSS program–three things the Freedom Foundation conveniently omits mentioning they themselves oppose.

One elected officials who is stepping up to support Orange County UDW members and the IHSS program they defend is State Senator Joshua Newman of Fullerton.

“It is unacceptable that an out of state organization funded by the Koch brothers and the State Policy Network would be making decisions for our home care providers,” said Newman. “I am calling on Supervisor [Michelle] Steel and Supervisor [Todd] Spitzer, who also received communications from the Freedom Foundation, to come clean about their involvement with this group, and to be forthcoming with the seniors and people with disabilities–and those who care for them–in our county.”

Newman said it is time for Orange County to stop giving favors to out-of-state extremists and support the working families they represent. “I stand with the hardworking men and women of Orange County’s IHSS program who do God’s work every day by taking care of our seniors and people with disabilities.”

UDW Executive Director Doug Moore agreed that Orange County’s coziness with the Freedom Foundation is endangering those who can least afford it.

“It’s outrageous that the Orange County Board of Supervisors would meet behind closed doors with the Freedom Foundation, an out-of-state organization intent on making life harder for working people,” said Moore. The Board is allowing the Freedom Foundation to take away rights from low-wage caregivers at the same time that they are refusing to pay these caregivers more than minimum wage—in one of the most expensive places to live in the country!”

Moore also warned that attacks on unions will only increase the growing income inequality in places like Orange County.

“The Freedom Foundation does the bidding of billionaires in an attempt to weaken worker power and destroy unions,” Moore said. “What happens if the folks behind the Freedom Foundation and cases like Janus succeed and unions like ours go away? The only people who benefit are the one percent.”

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United Domestic Workers of America (UDW/AFSCME Local 3930) is a home care union made up of over 100,000 in-home caregivers in 21 counties across the state of California. UDW caregivers provide critical services through the state’s In-Home Supportive Services program (IHSS), which allows over half a million California seniors and people with disabilities to remain in their homes with dignity and independence.

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