A Hero To The End

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 ofLKBL_1-JR[1] 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.

And what about Representative Fred Anderson. His betrayal of Montana’s fire fighters may be overshadowed by his association with prolific sexual offender James Jensen.
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.’


One thought on “A Hero To The End

  1. I suggest those politicians donn turnouts and an SCBA or do the right thing for our Brothers and Sisters that give the ultimate price. Maybe they should answer the call of giving everything for people we don’t know. PFFN Emeritus S/T Scott Gorgon


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