The City of Portland is now ensnared in two lawsuits as part of a public records standoff with an anti-labor group.

As expected, last week, the Portland City Council voted unanimously to fight a district attorney's order that it release the names of city employees represented by the union Laborers' Local 483. Those records have been requested by the Freedom Foundation, a conservative group that's trying to weaken public-sector labor unions in the Pacific Northwest.

City attorneys—in a new line of thinking—say the records could breach employee privacy, and potentially violate the city's labor agreement with Laborers' Local 483. So Portland filed a civil complaint [PDF] on Thursday, asking a judge to let it disregard an order from Multnomah County District Attorney Rod Underhill to turn over the information.

Now, the Freedom Foundation has filed a suit of its own. In a complaint filed yesterday [PDF], the Olympia-based group is asking a judge to compel the city to turn over the records, and to pay its attorneys' fees.

The fight is part if the Freedom Foundation's latest attempt to knee-cap Oregon labor unions. The group has used the names of members of unions like AFSCME and the SEIU to make phone calls and knock on members' doors, attempting to convince them to opt out of paying full union dues (in many union contracts, employees who don't want to be full members must pay, at minimum, a "fair-share" amount to cover the union's bargaining work). It's an attempt to strip labor groups of money they use to lobby for policy and finance political campaigns. (The Foundation couches its efforts in terms like "freeing" workers from unions' "death grip.")

The Laborers' Local effort is slightly different than the Freedom Foundation's past campaigns. Portland wastewater treatment employees unhappy with the union's representation actually called the anti-labor group in. They're hoping to use the list to help them gather enough signatures by late November to force a vote on "deauthorizing" the union. That vote could allow employees to cease paying dues altogether.

The matter might ultimately be rendered moot by the US Supreme Court, which is considering a case that could strip unions of the right to require employees to pay dues.