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Maybe They’re ‘Getting It Now:’ Right-To-Work Bill In Montana Draws NO Support Except For Sponsor

Published Wednesday, February 24, 2016
by Charles S. Johnson/

(HELENA, MONTANA) – No one but the sponsor testified for a Right-To-Work (for less) Bill for State Employees this week in Helena, Montana - but more than 30 people stood up against it.

House Bill 462, submitted by Republican Representative Art Wittich, would change State Law so that State Employees would not be required to become Union Employees as a condition of employment.  It would be an individual Employee’s option.  And under the bill, the state would no longer collect Union Dues from Workers through payroll deductions.

Wittich told the House Business and Labor Committee that the bill would affect about 10,000 State Workers.  If it passes, local governments could do the same by ordinance.  “If none of the rank-and-file Workers would take advantage of it and ‘not pay’ Union Dues, I ‘don’t know why we have so many opponents,’” Wittich said in his closing, adding: “The bill ‘clearly allows’ the ‘Union bosses’ to continue to work with their rank-and-file Members.”

An arm’s length relationship exists between Private Sector Unions and their employers, he said. That doesn’t exist in the Public Sector, Wittich said, where Unions work to help elect the governors whose administration then negotiate contracts with Public Employee Unions.

The packed hearing room was full of Union Members.

“Although the sponsor said this is not a ‘private sector bill,’ it ‘starts down a pathway to a lot of confrontation,’” Montana AFL-CIO Executive Secretary Al Ekblad said. “’An injury to one is an injury to all.’”

Eric Feaver, who serves as president of the MEA-MFT Union, said: “Montana is a ‘Union State.’ Unions ‘built’ this place.  It started in the mines.  ‘Why would we want to look like Texas or Wisconsin?’”

John Fitzpatrick of NorthWestern Energy criticized the bill as “both ‘poor public policy’ and ‘toxic politics’” and said it was a “classic postcard vote” that would be used against Republicans who vote against the bill.

Rich Aarstad, a State Employee and MEA-MFT Officer, said the under the bill, State Employees who decline to be represented by Unions would get a free ride and would benefit from the pay and benefits contract negotiated by the Unions, without paying dues.  “We don’t like people who get a ‘free ride,’” he said.

Republican Committee Chairman Tom Berry said afterward the panel is waiting for a fiscal note estimating the financial impact of the bill.  He wasn’t sure when the committee would vote on the bill.  However, time is running out.  This Friday (February 26th) is the deadline for all House bills except for budget and tax bills to be sent to the Senate, or they are automatically dead.

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