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What big, bad union?



Are you one of the “thousands of workers throughout the Big Sky state forced to fund violent organizing drives and a limousine lifestyle for union bigwigs”?

Are you willing to “join in the fight to end the tyranny of compulsory unionism”?

Look no further than recent efforts from state Rep. Jack Wells, R-Bozeman, and the Montana Right to Work Committee, which have launched another in a series of campaigns to pass a state right-to-work law. A January letter Wells sent out to businesses around the state, which contained the above quotes, came off as particularly virulent with its invocation of union “czars,” “bosses” and “brass” that would put Jimmy Hoffa to shame.

Twenty-two states, including those bordering Montana, have right-to-work laws, which prohibit making union membership a condition of employment in businesses or government agencies organized by unions. Wells has spearheaded past legislative attempts to pass such a law—most recently during the Legislature’s 2005 session—though his efforts have gone unrewarded. Gov. Brian Schweitzer opposes the notion and promises he would veto it should he have the chance, saying: “It has the effect of lowering wages. Montana is pro-business and pro-family and this idea is neither.” Rejection of the idea crosses party lines, though, as seen by past opposition from Govs. Judy Martz and Marc Racicot.

Nevertheless, Wells repeatedly asserts in his letter that nearly 80 percent of Montanans support a right-to-work law, though no source is offered for that information, and neither Wells nor a representative of the Montana Right to Work Committee responded by press time to elucidate.

Jim McGarvey, executive secretary of the Montana AFL-CIO, says the push for right-to-work laws is nothing but a thinly veiled effort to weaken unions’ ability to secure worker rights and a distraction from the real issues workers face.

“Montana is in a position to move forward, and this is just jargon from the past that’s a distraction from building good economic development,” McGarvey says.


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