Controversial Labor Research Center Defunded by State Legislature
Known as the LERC, or Labor Education Research Center, it was essentially put out of business when the legislature approved the recent budget. Why?
Billed as a center designed to study and improve working conditions and labor relations for workers, extensive digging by the Olympia, WA-based Freedom Foundation found the LERC was little more than a lobbying entity. It also served as a training arm for the WSLC, or Washington State Labor Council.
The Freedom Foundation discovered, through documents obtained via the Freedom of Information Act, that the LERC was responsible for lobbying against a proposed right-to-work plan for Washington state. According to Jeff Rhoads, Managing Editor for the Foundation:
"Based at South Seattle Community College's Georgetown Campus, LERC functions as little more than a state-subsidized extension of the Washington State Labor Council. In a meeting of LERC's advisory committee, the WSLC's Lynne Dodson noted that, “…the Labor Center is a key part of the WSLC's agenda and forthcoming strategic plans.”
Besides illegal and unregistered lobbying activities that were being done at taxpayer expense, the Foundation also found:
"One such project was the development for the WSLC of anti-right-to-work training and messaging materials. After developing the material, LERC staff traveled the state to train union members at a series of workshops about how to fight adoption of a right-to-work law in WashingtonThe Freedom Foundation used public records requests to conduct extensive research into LERC’s activity, finding that LERC operated as a research and training arm of the WSLC.
The investigation also uncovered improprieties that formed the basis of official complaints to the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) for unregistered lobbying, Executive Ethics Board (EEB) for using public resources for political activity, and the State Auditor’s Office. The PDC and EEB are still conducting their investigations."
Gov. Inslee and some Democratic legislators sought to triple the budget of the LERC to nearly half a million dollars, but other senators and representatives were successful in killing the entire budget, and defunding the center. It has essentially been serving as a taxpayer-funded arm of the Washington State Labor Council, but now it's all but dead in the water-unless the union steps in and foots the bill, which is what it should have been doing in the first place.