Koch-Backed Tech Group Behind Tool Used to Push Union Opt-Out Campaigns

Photograph of Charles Koch by Kevin Moloney/Fortune Brainstorm TECH. (Used under creative commons license.)

This article was first published at Documented.

The Lincoln Network, a group started with seed money from the Charles G. Koch Foundation, is behind online technology called "Edunity" that is being deployed to encourage teachers and other public sector union members to leave their unions.

According to an online member update from the State Policy Network (SPN), the tool was designed in "partnership with several SPN member organizations." SPN is a network of corporate-backed think tanks. Many of the groups in the network have also received funding from the Koch network of organizations and foundations. Other donors to SPN have included AT&T, Altria, Microsoft, Kraft Foods, Philip Morris.

According to SPN: "Lincoln designed and developed a technology platform to handle the end-to-end opt-out process from a public-sector union and provide leaving union members competitive benefits."

The benefits to union members who quit their union using Edunity, would include "discounts to useful major retailers, from Target to Microsoft."

Since June 2018 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Janus v. AFSCME, SPN and its member groups have been promoting anti-union opt-out campaigns.

SPN was well positioned to take advantage of the Janus decision. The Illinois Policy Institute, the SPN group in Illinois, was behind the lawsuit. Soon after the court issued its ruling, the Illinois Policy Institute hired Mark Janus.

As Rachel Cohen and myself wrote about recently for The Intercept, SPN is engaging in long and multi-faceted campaign to drain unions of members and resources. SPN publicly talks about empowering workers, but on a call with their donors that was published with our article, SPN leaders were more straightforward about their motivations. Describing the Janus case to the donors, Tracie Sharp, CEO of SPN said: "Once this ruling comes down -- and we do expect it to come down in our favor -- everything will change. The door to pass a dream list of free-market reforms is going to swing open for us."

"The flexible opt-out workflow feature is plug-and-play, and it can break through any type of barrier a union builds to prevent an opt-out," SPN boasted.