Rousing speeches, good fellowship and a bizarre union protest that entirely validated the Freedom Foundation’s efforts were the order of the evening on June 24 as the organization marked the one-year anniversary if its expansion into the state of Oregon with a banquet at the Portland Zoo.
Media mogul, flat-tax advocate, free trade champion and two-time GOP candidate for president Steve Forbes, along with Rebecca Friedrichs, plaintiff in the potentially landmark Supreme Court case Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association were the featured speakers.
Forbes said he believes the grassroots organizing weapon wielded so potently by the Freedom Foundation is in the process of saving the world from the excesses of public-sector unions.
“What the Freedom Foundation is doing, the rest of the political participants should be doing,” he said. “It’s not enough to have the principles. It’s not enough to have the ideas. You have to translate them so that people can have a takeaway.”
“You can have high standards,” Forbes said, “but you have to have a way to get them across to people who have other things to do in their lives.”
Forbes, the keynote speaker at the Freedom Foundation’s June 24 banquet at the Portland Zoo celebrating the first anniversary of the organization’s expansion into Oregon, was unsparing in his criticism of organized labor in general and government employee unions in particular.
“The unions say they’re there for the workers,” he said, “but as you know from your own experience, it becomes self-perpetuating. The organization exists for itself, not for its members.”
Speaking just two days after Great Britain had voted to withdraw from the European Union, Forbes understood the motivation behind the move, but expressed concern it could destabilize the continent and embolden Russia to fill the power vaccuum.
Instead of simply walking away from the problem, English leaders should have done what the Freedom Foundation is doing, he said.
“The reason it didn’t work there is because they didn’t have people like you,” Forbes said. “There was no one laying out the case, going door to door telling people what their rights are, what resources they could use, how they could change the system. Action is already being taken here, and you exemplify that action.
“So take inspiration,” he said. “Europe needs exactly what you do, what you’re doing here tonight.” As is the case in the free market, he said, warriors in the cause of freedom should celebrate their failures as well as their successes because you can often learn more from the former than the latter. “This is not a time for despair,” Forbes said. “It’s a time to double down on what we’re doing.”
Friedrichs, whose case could have paved the way for a ruling allowing all public-sector workers to choose for themselves whether to pay tribute to a union, was even more upbeat in her remarks.
“I don’t want to kill the unions,” she said. “I just want to have a choice about whether or not to join one. And I want others to have that same choice. It’s a First Amendment issue.”
In fact, she urged attendees to “adopt a teacher” or any other public-sector employee.
“Embrace them,” Friedrichs said. “Educate them, but don’t be angry at them. They’re the victims.
“They’re terrified,” she continued, “or they’ve been lied to for so long they really believe this stuff.”
The evening’s note of comedy was provided by a circus-like protest featuring hired agitators accusing the Freedom Foundation of every offense it could think of to divert the conversation from the real question of why the unions refuse to allow their members to opt out – or even learn that many of them already have that right.
“If the union’s rent-a-mob was supposed to intimidate or impress us, it had just the opposite effect,” said Freedom Foundation CEO Tom McCabe. “It was an unserious performance by unserious people, and all it did was invigorate our supporters and validate our efforts. The contrast between these clowns on one side of the line and our dedicated staff and generous, freedom-loving donors on the other couldn’t have been more striking. As always, their hate and deception backfired on them.