“Santa” is suing the Department of Ecology in Washington state.
The suit centers on the agency’s decision to censor a message from a conservative think tank, the Freedom Foundation, in the public areas of its building.
The announcement comes from the Pacific Legal Foundation, which is representing the Freedom Foundation in its attempts to explain to employees of the state just exactly what their union does with their money.
“Santa probably fends off a barrage of bogus lawsuits; implied warranty claims from kids disappointed in their toys, property owners filing fraudulent claims over roof damage, Scrooges claiming noise pollution from too much jolly laughter and tinkling bells in the night. This time, though, Santa is the one suing,” the PLF announcement said Wednesday.
The Freedom Foundation, which promotes right-to-work laws, is battling public-sector unions on the West Coast.
Every December, it has canvassers dressed as Santa and, armed with candy canes, visits government buildings.
“They carry posters and pamphlets to inform public employees about how the union spends their money and educate them regarding their rights. If public employees knew the union’s spending habits, they might decide that the union has a poor excuse for picking a man’s pocket every paycheck,” PLF said.
But unions don’t like the Freedom Foundation, and when the Santas showed up at the Department of Ecology, an official armed with a security contingent appeared and booted them.
“Freedom Foundation pointed out that Ecology allowed the union to hold membership drives and meetings in the lobby, but the official didn’t budge. The union can spread its message and pressure employees in the public areas of a government building, but Freedom Foundation can’t spread information that the union dislikes. Or hand out their anti-labor candy canes,” the report said.
The complaint explains the canvassers occasionally been met with resistance from union and government officials.
During a recent holiday season, for example, two canvassers went to the Department of Enterprise Services, and they were allowed to leaflet in public areas of the building.
Another was at the Department of Natural Resources and likewise was allowed to leaflet in public areas.
“Around the same time, a Freedom Foundation canvasser in holiday attire also visited the Department of Ecology. The front desk informed Santa that he could distribute his handouts in the lobby, and a security guard told him that he could enjoy access to the whole building if he signed in.”
However, “after learning that Santa would be handing out information contrary to the union’s interests, however, the security guard escorted Santa from the building, stating: ‘We have a good relationship with our union, and they don’t want you here.'”
Later, Freedom Foundation canvassers were told they would be banned from the Ecology office building. Officials told them the union was allowed to use the facilities for its purposes because it is the representative of the workers.
State officials claimed there was a ban on anyone promoting outside interest groups in state buildings, although the Freedom Foundation members weren’t promoting anything, just providing information about unions and their spending, the complaint said.
The complaint explains Freedom Foundation was deprived of its right to free speech, and it is entitled to declaratory and permanent relief against continued enforcement of the ban.