SALEM — Oregon state Rep. Mike Nearman is now also the state director for a group seeking to reduce the influence of public employee unions.
Nearman, R-Independence, said Wednesday that he will keep his legislative job while working for the Freedom Foundation.
The Olympia-based organization frequently fights with unions. It has run a variety of outreach campaigns showing workers how they can quit unions and stop paying union dues. Under the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 Janus decision, public employees in Oregon and many other states are no longer required to pay dues if they decline union membership.
Nearman has been one of the most conservative Oregon legislators. He previously was a board member for Oregonians for Immigration Reform, a group seeking tighter immigration laws.
He said he doesn’t think his new job conflicts with his legislative work.
“The same question could be directed to some of the members of the Legislature who are actively involved with unions,” Nearman said.
Oregon lawmakers are paid a part-time salary and are not restricted from holding other jobs.
Peter Starzynski heads a labor-backed group, the Northwest Accountability Project, that has been critical of the Freedom Foundation. He charged that Nearman has been “rabidly anti-worker” in his voting record and that he and the foundation are instead focused on destroying the power of unions.
Nearman said he doesn’t oppose the right of workers to organize. He said he is trying to uphold the civil rights of workers so they are not coerced into supporting unions.
The Freedom Foundation has been supported by several foundations and other nonprofits that have backed conservative causes. The group’s latest disclosure report, for 2016, showed that it received about $4 million in grants and other revenue. The foundation operates in Oregon, Washington and California and is seeking to expand into other states, Nearman said.