Yesterday, the Labor Movement didn’t just lose a hero, the entire state of Montana did. Firefighter Jason Baker of Great Falls died early Wednesday morning after a long battle with lung cancer.
Over the last few years, Baker’s struggle with cancer, which he developed as a result of being exposed to dangerous toxins while on the job, came to symbolize the push for presumptive illness insurance – legislation that would cover fire fighters who develop cancers and other illnesses because of the dangerous nature of their work.
Montana is one of the last states to not have presumptive illness insurance for firefighters. We came close to righting that wrong in 2017, but the legislation died in committee thanks to two Great Falls legislators: Representatives Jeremy Trebas and Fred Anderson. The insulting fact that these legislators “represented” the city Jason Baker called home is not lost on us.
To make matters worse, Trebas and Anderson lied to Montana’s fire fighters and told them they would support the legislation. They were the deciding votes to kill the legislation in committee. In response, Baker’s wife wrote an open letter to Trebas and Anderson.
By voting NO on this bill today you have said to our family, including our 11 and 15 year old children, that his sacrifice doesn’t matter to you. That our family’s struggle doesn’t matter to you. I have listened to the hearings and heard your testimony. I heard you talk about how you “love” and “appreciate” firefighters, but your words are empty without action. Shame on you for putting politics before the lives of public servants.
Instead of apologizing, Representative Trebas went on the offensive and began trolling Montana’s fire fighter organizations and other allies supporting presumptive illness insurance. Montana’s fire fighters didn’t take it laying down, of course. They skinned him alive at a town hall.
Trebas, in large part due to his lies and dishonesty, was defeated in 2018 after serving only one term. His betrayal of Montana’s fire fighters and the Baker family will, undoubtedly, be his political legacy. We can only hope that Trebas feels some shame today.
Fortunately, this legislative session has produced far better results on presumptive illness insurance legislation as Senate Bill 160 continues to work it’s way through both chambers. It currently sits waiting for it’s next hearing in House Business and Labor where Fred Thomas will have to decide whether or not he can make eye contact with women and men who are far braver than he will ever be.
Jason Baker willingly shared his story of cancer, the pain suffered by his family and ultimately his death in hopes of protecting his fellow firefighters today and into the future. As Montanans we should feel honored to have this kind of hero who ran into burning buildings for those of us who will not. Godspeed Jason Baker.
‘Maybe all men got one big soul ever’body’s a part of.’
Since his election in 2016, Secretary of State Corey Stapleton has suffered a number of trials and tribulations as a result of his political asperations. The latest is just another hashmark in his “oh shit” column.
Let’s talk about voter fraud because we all know during the 2016 campaign Stapleton was a bulldog on the subject. Perhaps it helped him win by a landslide, or perhaps it was the lackluster campaign and character of his Democratic opponent Monica Lindeen. The end result was the same. Stapleton, without a shred of evidence, trumpeted voter fraud until he incurred the ire of county clerks and recorders statewide; he backed off the notion of statewide voter fraud and instead focused on Missoula County. And then he walked into the lion’s den that was the clerk and recorder convention at Fairmont, where county clerk’s took exception to his calling into question their ability to conduct fair elections. Perhaps he should have just grabbed a towel and went for a soak because once the clerks finished excoriating him there wasn’t enough of him left to soak.
Then during the 2018 mid-term elections he hit a double boner! No not that kind, the bonehead kind. The Billings Gazette took a scrub brush to our diminutive SOS for the shoddy voter guide his office produced and then attempted to fix by punting a re-print to good buddy and former Montana GOP fixer Jake Eaton at a considerably higher cost than the lowest bid from a printing firm in Phoenix, AZ. In Corey’s defense though give him credit for trying to keep the work in Montana, but maybe he would have faired better if he had used a “union” printer.
Digging deeper into the voter guide story, the Gazette discovered that Stapleton’s office hired attorney Emily Jones – who just happens to be the wife of Jake Eaton – to defend his office in a lawsuit over a ballot issue. Now typically you call the home team attorney, Attorney General Tim Fox and fellow Republican. Instead Stapleton once again kicks money to one of his Republican cronies at the tax payers’ expense and loses the lawsuit. In this case the only one to see “green” was Emily Jones.
Secretary of State Corey Stapleton has once again stepped on his own…. In his rush to announce his 2020 bid for governor of Montana, he pushed out a letter on his SOS letterhead, through his state email, to underlings in his office who then helped push it out to news outlets across the state. Sigh, what do you do with a man-child who just doesn’t seem to learn that public officials, public employees, have to play by a different set of rules to keep the playing field fair. Granted he probably wanted to be first out of the gate because he will have some much bigger competition. Tim Fox has announced and likely we will see Greg Gianforte enter the fray as well. One can only hope Stapleton has some ninja like skills because both men have demonstrated WWE skills. At least Fox wasn’t criminally charged with assault. As for the $4000 check Stapleton had to write for the Commissioner of Political Practices, maybe he can get Jake and Emily to kick a little of that state money back to cover the cost.
They say hindsight is 20/20. This should make it easy for Stapleton to look back and point to exactly where he came up short, so to speak, in his bid for the governor’s chair.
T-Bone Slim “Wherever you find injustice, the proper form of politeness is attack.”
Is it for Governor? Nope. How about Congressman? Not this time. OK, Secretary of State? Wrong again. Hmmm, maybe Senator? Wait, he already lost that one. Dog catcher? It’s kind of his style, but a hired position. Give up? Fine, it’s a UNION election!
That’s right! After almost a year and a half of blocking by Matt, Kris Hansen and their loyal stooge attorney, Derek Oestreicher, the workers at the State Auditor’s office will finally get to decide if they want a union to back them up or continue to be used and abused by Rosendale and his party appointees. The MPEA, now part of Montana’s mega union, the Montana Federation of Public Employees, filed paperwork to hold a union election way back in October of 2017. According to emails received with a bevy of documents attached, the Rosendale team has spent a lot of time and even more money to shut down this uprising.
You’d probably have to be an attorney to understand half of this stuff, but in a nutshell the MPEA said a group of these workers should be in the union and believe it or not Rosendale wanted everyone at the Auditor’s in the union. He must have figured he had the votes, or could coerce the votes, to take away their seat at the table. After sifting through all the legalese and union speak it looks like the governing board that decides such things for public employees ordered an election in October of last year, that would be an election that is just now happening. What was the hold up? Hansen and Oestreicher asked the district court for a temporary restraining order on Black Friday claiming they would suffer ‘irreparable harm’ if workers got to vote. Huh? Haven’t workers and employers been working this very thing out for decades and in some cases, centuries?
It also looks like Rosendale, the self proclaimed fiscal conservative, has spent almost $100,000 in just two years to battle with his own employees. Grievances, wage claims, harassment claims, settlement payments and who knows what else. It’s no wonder folks aren’t happy there, at least the ones who’ve showed the fortitude to stick it out rather than seek greener grass elsewhere. Of course
not everyone at the Auditor’s office is unhappy. Hansen has managed to hire her own kind to replace employees who have either quit or been fired. And then there’s her living situation in which she’s shacked up with one of her paralegals from the office. Nothing inappropriate here, move along.
To say the least, all is not well at the Auditor’s office and workers could use some help. Despite all the promises from management, they won’t get it in house. Voting yes for a union and then starting on the long battle to negotiate a contract will be nothing less than a long haul given Rosendale and Hansen’s hatred towards anything that does not represent what they want. This administration is not concerned with good government and is instead focused on back scratching, ideology and in Matt’s case, which office he can get elected to next and exit stage right from the Auditor’s office. And who’s left to mop up all the damage? Those same workers who were there the day after November 8, 2016.
So to the workers at the Auditor’s office, mark ‘YES’ on that ballot and take back your worth and your work!
‘Maybe all men got one big soul ever’body’s a part of.’
The Billings Gazette, Lee Enterprise’s Montana flagship newspaper, just dropped trowel and it ain’t pretty. For one thing, the grand old “rag” is showing her age and let’s face it who really wants to read a newspaper that isn’t “high and tight”. Her only claim to fame is being the daily with the most-est not the best-est.
The editorial board’s op-ed “Union membership bill would make unions prove their worth to members” demonstrates a glaring lack of research and basic understanding of public employee unions and how they have operated in Montana SINCE THE 1930s! Instead, they trot out the tried, true, tired old saw that Representative Brad Tschida’s HB 323 is nothing more than a guarantee of the first amendment rights of the oppressed public employee union member. In this case, the first amendment right of public sector workers to “opt-in” or “opt-out” of a union as they so chose. Well duh!
With the SCOTUS 5-4 decision in favor of Mark Janus, free speech was upheld and public sector unions could no longer charge a representation fee as a condition of employment. WINNER! And now the age old mystery of “who’s on first” is answered – the 1st Amendment. It’s good to be number 1. But there are two more bases to cover before home plate. Representative Tschida and the editorial board of the Gazette believe they know “what’s” on second. It has to do with a public sector employee’s right to join or drop union membership at anytime. Failure to allow this on the part of unions…wait for it…violates their right to free speech. The hell you say!
However, Tschida’s bill doesn’t guarantee anyone’s right to opt-in, they already have that right as well as the right to opt-out. In Montana they had that right before Janus and now in the post-Janus world it is reaffirmed that public employees cannot be coerced into paying union dues or a representation fee as a condition of employment. Now granted the whole representation fee precedent established by SCOTUS way back in 1977 clouded that somewhat but since Janus those who were “bullied” into union membership have been “free at last, free at last, thank Mark Janus, free at last!”
Representative Tschida and the Gazette both believe “unions [should] have to convince members that there’s enough value in the union membership to warrant the dues”. In other words while they can already opt-in at will, members should have the right to opt-out at will too. This suggests that they don’t but, given the testimony of Eric Feaver, president of MFPE, and Timm Twardoski, executive director of AFSCME Council 9, anyone can resign their union membership as long as they do it during the prescribed membership withdrawal period. In other words as Twardoski pointed out, an employee can’t join during local contract negotiations so they have a seat at the table and then resign that membership as soon as bargaining is complete. Or as the rotund labor boss put it “if you join the gym to lose 50 pounds don’t you think you ought to join for at least a year if you want to lose the pounds?”
Now neither Representative Tschida nor the Gazette say you have to give up your union card; they’re not even saying you can’t have a union card; they just don’t want to see your union card at work. No silly! I don’t mean in your wallet at work I mean “at work” on your behalf at work.
To be perfectly honest, this post does little more than muddy up the already murky waters of union membership, especially public employee union membership. So as you read op-eds like the Gazette’s and blog posts such as this keep in mind that it can be quite tiring and if need be, you might be compelled to “take a knee” as you ponder the pros and cons, but don’t kneel too long in quiet reflection or someone may trample your first amendment right to free speech!
T-Bone Slim – “Wherever you find injustice, the proper form of politeness is attack.”
Representative Brad Tschida of Missoula is bringing forward the first anti union bill since 2015. His aim with HB 323 is to further cripple public employee unions by going a few steps farther than the Janus case that Tschida and his kind were certain would be the death blow to unions across the country. Most of what he’s packed into this poorly written and somewhat confusing bill is already the law of the land. Seems like a waste of time. Or maybe Tshida’s handlers have the forethought to see that some day the tide could turn back against them.
Of course his title seems harmless enough ‘An act providing for free association…’. Free, yes it says ‘free’. Now think about this for a minute. Tschida and his ilk want the poor and disabled to work for their publicly funded health insurance, yet they have no issue at all with freeloaders reaping the benefits of the union without paying a dime and riding on the backs of those who believe in their union and pay dues. Hardly makes any sense at all, but it’s important to keep in mind that he isn’t worried about you as a public worker, he’s more worried about those unions that he wants out of the way. Once he’s killed the union, he’ll be coming after you because you’re a drain on the tax payer.
Dozens of labor leaders and even more union members will show up to testify against the Tschida right to work bill and all of it’s free stuff for those who simply don’t want to pay. Both public and private sector unions will fill the room because an injury to one is an injury to all. (Unless you’re the big purple machine and then an injury to one is an opportunity to be AWARE of.). The procession used to be a legislative tradition, but with back to back Democratic Governor’s there have been few attempts. In fact the last was brought forward by the now convicted former legislator Art Wittich where he appeared as the only proponent. No doubt Tschida will round up at least a couple of supporters. What will be missing is that booming, gravelly voice of JD Lynch to conjure up his wise mother and imagines of lightening bolts.
Neither Janus or Tschida are giving you anything free here and in the long run you’ll pay and pay more. And so will anyone who takes your job when you’re too old and too tired to work because you couldn’t afford to retire years ago. That’s assuming there’s a job left for them to take when you’re gone.
‘Maybe all men got one big soul ever’body’s a part of.’