It’s a sad time for Larry Jent. Last week he was trounced by Attorney General Tim Fox in a debate on Face the State and then this week a recorded interview with Enhancing Montana’s Wildlife & Habitat was posted. Some thirteen or so minutes into that interview Jent accuses the Montana Public Employees Association and organized labor, the Montana AFL-CIO, of being the root cause for the lack of qualified game wardens in Montana.
It’s difficult to believe that someone with Jent’s intelligence and background could make a statement that accuses a labor organization of being too ‘…wedded to the collective bargaining process…’. Larry, collective bargaining is the very process for which unions exist. Perhaps reading this slowly would help- workers band together to form a collective bargaining unit (aka a union) and then workers collectively bargain. To say the two are wedded would somehow insinuate that one could ever exist without the other or that somewhere in time the two existed separately. Make no mistake, Jent has clearly been fuming for some time for not being endorsed by Montana’s labor unions. Jent managed to invite himself to speak to the excutive board of Montana AFL-CIO and left without an endorsement. And why should he have expected it? After all he did enter the race at the very last minute on the very last day and by his own admission, at the urging of former Governor Brian Schweitzer. To simplify again, running for the office wasn’t even his own idea.
Jent alludes to and refers to two legislative sessions in the interview. The 2005 session in which House Bill 35 was passed and created a new pay mechanism for Montana Highway Patrol officers. Some quick research showed that the bill had the blessing of the attorney general, governor and the union. By all accounts Jent championed the bill and followed his script well. In fact, his website touts the bill signing with all of the players pictured. He’s obviously proud of the work he did. Unfortunately, and much like his claims to have saved the public employee retirement system on Face the State, he believes he single handedly saved the Montana Highway Patrol from going out of business.
The ‘Stay At Home Attorney General’ candidate made a vague reference to House Bill 313 that was a stand alone pay increase just for game wardens and the MPEA during the 2011 session. What he doesn’t point out is that this bill had no support, was poorly planned and executed by Montana Game Warden’s Association. Apparently “Larry-Come-Lately” Jent missed the wild west days of every state agency bringing its own pay plan to the legislature before former Governor Marc Racicot put an end to the nonsense. The MPEA and MEA-MFT had already reached a pay agreement with the Schweitzer administration, that had overwhelmingly support from the members, and could not support a rogue pay bill. In the labor world this would be called an unfair labor practice. Maybe that’s just too wedded for Larry. The game wardens and the Montana Public Employees Association have since gone their separate ways and the game wardens have now joined the ranks of the esteemed Fraternal Order of Police (FOP). The same FOP that recently endorsed Donald Trump, that paragon of Gilded Age excess and anti-union rhetoric.
Larry was for many years considered a class act and a reliable legislator who was willing to carry bills. Like many legislators, he needed to be reminded of what he was working on and kept in a lane to get to the end of the process. He treated people with respect and was in turn treated with respect. Perhaps the strings that are directing him in this ill fated race for AG are too tight or perhaps not tight enough. You’re better than this Larry and it’s not too late to finish this race with dignity and your self-respect still intact.
‘Maybe all men got one big soul ever’body’s a part of.’