If you thought a Republican controlled House, Senate and Governor’s office would only bring you one Right To Work bill in their first shot at destroying unions in decades, you are, well, you are all hopped up on goofballs. A week ago Keith Reiger opened the crypt door on SB 89 and in doing so, roused organized labor in Montana from their post election daze. Enter House Bill 168. Billings Representative Bill Mercer is working up his own anti labor bill to work towards crippling Montana’s public employees and their unions. If you read both bills you have to wonder if these guys talk to each other and coordinate strategies, then again, maybe they do and maybe they are.
What’s the difference between 168 and 89? Mercer isn’t outlawing the collection of union dues by a public employer. However, he does put a whole bunch of odd parameters on the process that will, quite honestly, grow government at every level. For the most part, 168 puts into Montana law the Janus ruling and references an employee’s 1st Amendment right to free speech, a right that an ’employee’ ironically now shares with corporations. Taking Janus one step farther, the bill puts the obligation of dues authorization on the employer rather than continuing with the current standard that membership and dues is between a member and their union. So how does he grow government? Well some poor payroll technician is going to have to get a physically signed document each year to authorize dues for the coming year along with the reading of statement of waiving the above mentioned constitutional right. Perhaps after signing, pledging and crossing their hearts, union members could also dip their thumb in red ink as proof that want to be part of the union. Mercer’s bill also allows union members to withdraw membership at any time, more work for management.
Today, and even after Janus and despite much posturing by anti union politicians like Mercer and Reiger, unions have legally kept the right to set a membership period, set a time frame when members can decide they don’t want to pay and become a freeloader, and continue to own the right to the membership conversation. Unions have continued to view the issue of membership as one where members must assert their desire to get the milk for free, much like that analogy of a gym membership. If you want to get fat, you have to quit the gym membership. Maybe these guys could drum up a bill for that too.
What else does his bill do? It opens the door for litigation at every level of government in Montana. Some poor hourly employee (who gets pay raises and improved benefits because the union bargains it for their members and a public employer is going to give what the union gets to everyone) will have to have a conversation about the union with it’s members every single year. That conversation will surely involve questions like ‘why should I belong to the union’ and depending on the answer, could in turn be the basis of an unfair labor practice filed by the union for interfering with the union’s right to do business. At least lawyers like Mercer will make money off this deal.
Now a little about Mercer. He too belly’s up to that state health insurance trough and even better, makes his living off suing both the state and federal government. Seems a little duplicitous doesn’t it? Then again, what did you expect?
So, do you pick 168 or 89? Or better than having to make a decision and given the true roots of Right To Work, could someone plug these numbers into a Mercer-Reiger-QAnon conspiracy number generator and let us know if all these right to work bills really just give us the longitude and latitude of the next Montana Ku Klux Klan meeting? No hoods or masks required, Swastikas optional.
‘Maybe all men got one big soul ever’body’s a part of.’