Go ask Keith Reiger, he’s got a few ideas. Well, he’s been handed a few ideas, because he’s just not smart enough to write this bill on his own. Late Friday afternoon Senate Bill 89 was introduced on first reading. As of yet there is no committee assigned but the rumors are flying and the talk is that this garbage gets a hearing soon. Or mabye it dangles out there a while so those union bosses can wring their hands to the bone.
What does a bill with a short title ‘Revise laws related to the collection of union dues’ actually accomplish? In short it outlaws an employer’s right to automatically deduct funds from an employee’s pay through payroll deduction. In this case, that outlawed deduction is for union dues that the employee pays to be a member of the union. By no means should this be confused with the idea that they are obligated to join the union or be fired. Those days have been gone since the spring of 2018 when the Supreme Court of the United States ran a sharp blade through the fat stomach of public employee unions and ended representation fee with the Janus decision. Ironically, those same unions were granted a short reprieve when Justice Scalia miraculously died in early 2016. The big bosses drew a sigh of relief and bet the farm on Hillary Clinton to win the presidential election. There is no need to explain what happened from there.
Back to the 67th Montana Legislature. Reiger’s bill does a lot of damage to public employee unions in just three pages. To make a long blog post longer, it allows union members to withdraw membership at any time rather than in the prescribed ‘window’ that unions are currently allowed to set. Ol’ Keith apperently can’t wait until the next SCOTUS case related to public employee unions and may not get his wish anyway given the changes to Congress and POTUS.
Next, he strikes long established law which encourages the practice of arriving at ‘friendly adjustments’ to end labor disputes and no longer acknowledges the idea that labor and management can solve problems for the good of all involved. That’s right folks, you have just traveled back to the 1960s where the Reiger family wants your wages, employment and reproductive rights.
Then comes the big hit for labor organizations in Montana, a prohibition of payroll deduction- more on this in a bit. But wait, there’s more! He allows the employer to voluntarily bargain with the union, if it can survive, and then cut sweet deals with it’s non members in hopes of convincing dues payers to give it up and let the union go because the employer is always benevolent. Get ready Montana unions, the MFPE, AFSCME, Teamsters and the AFL-CIO in particular, if this Hades’ Bident gets thrown there will be blood.
Now back to that dues deduction thing, because that was the short title of the bill before Reiger loaded it up with plenty of sharp points. Back in the ‘old days’ dues were collected at the union hall for trades unions and for public employee unions like teachers, members willingly paid up each month to the local treasurer and funds eventually found their way to the parent union. When the collective bargaining act passed in Montana two things happened to pave the road for unions: join as a member, pay a representation fee or go work somewhere else; and payroll deduction for dues. A captive audience and the employer to act as the dues collector and even better, to write the check to the union. A damn good stroke of business!
On its face, the bill is clearly prejudicial in singling out unions to be outlawed from payroll deduction. There’s a long, long list of deductions public employers will allow for their employees with union dues being just one. There are also plenty of ‘advocate’ organizations that fill their bank accounts with ‘dues’ collected through payroll deduction so they can belly up to the public trough for their members. How about a sample list? The Montana Troopers Association, Montana Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, the Montana Police Protective Association and the Montana Game Wardens Association. No doubt there are more, but everyone wants to ‘Back the Blue’ and Reiger’s bill does not exclude cops or firefighters. All of the above mentioned groups collect fees through payroll deduction and then hire lobbyists to work on pensions and benefits for their members. Very much like a union, but not as ‘dirty’.
One last point that absolutely must be made. Keith is a retired teacher and collects a monthly check from the Teachers Retirement System. No doubt he earned that benefit, but where did it come from? Unions. Unions demanded retirement benefits for their members and have worked hard to improve those retirement benefits so that members could actually enjoy those golden years as comfortably as possible. Keith also has employer paid health insurance, of course his employer is the State of Montana as a sitting legislator. He’s been slurping up that public dollar slop on a monthly basis since 2009. That’s right, he’s been enjoying a union negotiated benefit for state employees for twelve years now. If you’re struggling to find a word for him, the one you’re looking for is ‘hypocrite’.
So how do you kill the union? Sad news Keith, you don’t. You can do everything in your power to break and bankrupt the union now that you have the Governor’s office and hope he’ll sign your batshit crazy bills. But you don’t kill the union because the union is a spirit and a will to make life better for yourself, your family and your community. The union is the pathway to the future of your children and their children to come. The union is the guardian of the downtrodden and the disadvantaged to prevent their exploitation. Senator Reiger, the union was here long before you and will be here long after you find yourself in a hot place shoveling coal into an unexpected furnace when you’re gone.
‘Maybe all men got one big soul ever’body’s a part of.’