How Do You Outsmart a Cheetah?

Or in this case, Brad Tschida of House District 97 in Missoula.  Think back to the first blizzard of 2019 in February and the only ‘Right to Work’ bill to be brought forward inIMG_9960 the 66th Legislative session.  Despite the nasty road conditions, Montana’s union fans showed up in force to oppose the bill and outnumbered any proponents who dared sign in let alone testify.

Back to the here and now.  Whatever happened to Tschida’s baby, House Bill 323?  Well, it’s been amended plenty and now watered down to reflect just one thing and what is already the law of the land as a result of the Janus case.  Today and as amended, Big Bad Brad’s bill contains nothing more than a statute change to make clear that public sector unions can no longer charge a representation fee and make paying that fee a condition of employment.  Once amended the bill actually garnered the support of organized labor in an effort to clarify the law and represent the reality of public employee representation.  MFPE President Eric Feaver cleverly worked the system to hack out the ugly garbage and true Right to Work-ish language in the bill and then actually advocated for passage on Tschida’s behalf.  Strange bed fellows to say the least and certainly unintended.  Not to worry, Tschida will still be sure to wear his signature scowl whenever he stares down a union lobbyist.

So now some oddities in the whole process.  After the bill was amended, and even though it left a foul taste in their mouths, union leaders were fine with the bill.  A reversal of the Janus decision will be a long time in coming and likely not in any of their lifetimes.  Those same leaders even went so far to ask their so called friends to vote for the bill and 1256b58ae52e34fd1fe53e8f09888bc4[1]reassured them it would not be held against them.  ‘I just can’t vote for a right to work bill, I just can’t!’ was the response.  Gee, thanks.  That’s comforting.  But about those privatization bills related to the State Fund and private pre-k, could they hold that same standard to those?  Nope, that herd of cats can’t be corralled.  It’s enough to make one do at least a few head shakes, but certainly shouldn’t create too much a rift between the check writers at the union and the check takers in the Democratic Party.  Unfortunately, it was an undecipherable precursor of things to come.

As for Tschida and his lost cause, he’s been bested by the longest serving President of either an NEA or AFT state affiliate.  And yet his bill still passed, albeit that it lingers on the desk of the Governor who has yet to sign off. More of that ‘I just can’t do it’ act.  Well, given the circumstances today he just may have signed off on the bill as proposed.


‘Maybe all men got one big soul ever’body’s a part of.’


The ‘P’ in Pre-K is for Privatization

Last week Governor Bullock’s dream of pre-kindergarten education became somewhat of a nightmare when it was tabled in committee.  All part of the legislative process, right?iamkirk  Sure, bills pass out of committees and bills get tabled in committees, but rarely do bills get killed anymore.  So the average person would take tabling as part of the game and move along.  Clearly Bullock is not the average person.  Above or below average becomes the question if you read his press release in which he lashed out at his long time partners, unions and education coalitions, as being petty and out of touch.   Never mind that one of those petty special interest groups had a lot to do with the fact that he got to push this bill along in the first place.   In this case you can take ‘a lot’ to mean well over five million dollars in direct and indirect campaign contributions to support his multiple elections.

And really folks, the position of the Montana Federation of Public Employees and the Montana AFL-CIO shouldn’t come as any surprise.  If you wander back in time to when 231409373[1]Ronald Regan made public sector union busting sexy, you’ll understand why public sector unions have opposed privatization on all fronts.  And since those public sector unions now control the density of union members across the country, opposition also comes from state federations like the AFL-CIO.  ‘Opposing’ isn’t just opposing some or a little here and there, it’s as simple as that; privatization is bad, bad, bad.  But hey, it’s the Governor’s bill and he did a little union lawyering back in the day so surely this zebra can change it’s stripes just this once?

So much hay has already been made here, why more?  One week later, and of no surprise to anyone, the solid word going around the Capitol today is that the Governor has found his end around and will jam his HB 755 into another bill that won’t require a hearing, let alone any of that silly public comment.  If he gets his way he’ll have added a new cabinet position through the creation of a Pre-K Czar to be appointed by each sitting Governor.  Couple that up with the opening of the floodgates for publicly funded private schools that can just as easily look like Greg Gianforte’s Petra Academy where only the beautiful and the bright are allowed entrance.

Maybe we shouldn’t go so hard on the Governor, after all it’s not like he’s out there on his own in this venture.  Take House Minority Leader Casey Schreiner who’s got a little personal skin in this game should some of this money dry up at the end of the session.  Or it could also be that the Great Falls representative has an eye on the fancy Czar job given his ramblings about running for Superintendent of Public Instruction.  Imagine if the Democratic Party hadn’t failed the tier B races, maybe Bullock wouldn’t need a Czar and could offer up an olive branch by housing at least the oversight of his privatization project just down the street at OPI.  No such luck as long as Elsie holds that office.

And then there’s the rest of the minority party in the Capitol who have sidled up to Bullock on this idea except for a courageous few.  Could be they should take note that two key legislative objectives for public employee unions have been achieved already and they were not the ones who pulled it off.  Republicans snatched the negotiated state employee pay plan and the school funding bill from the historical grip of Democrats and passed both bills unscathed for the first time in a decade.  While some may have seen thCW74GV2Athis as an effort to move organized labor off of the playing field, it could also be that unions have a new best friend.  Of course the People’s Party likes that influx of international union cash to keep the election fires burning in even years.  Nothing like biting the hand that feeds you.  And now a Governor who has a track record of privatization and continues down that path.  Let’s not forget about his handing over of the Montana Developmental Center to the for profit and private AWAR INC in 2015.

It’s the Governor’s next move.  Success here makes him the Iowa primary candidate of early childhood education and could make him some friends for having beat up on the unions that brought him to the dance, as his former budget director used to say.  While unions may have gotten fat and lazy in the past, they’ve hopefully learned that the only friend they have now is the dues paying member.  Vigilance is the name of the game if they want to continue on with their important work.  As for the lame duck Governor, vengeance will likely be the name of his game.  Fortunately, that game ends in January of 2021.



‘Maybe all men got one big soul ever’body’s a part of.’