It’s a sad day for 38 members of the House of Representatives and a joyous day for 45,000 working Montana families who rely on their union rights for power in the work place. Amy Regier and Caleb Hinkle’s House Bill 251 met it’s comeuppance on the House floor this morning and died the same death as all of its sister bills this session. Montana’s union workers and union leaders should relish in this moment since the worst scenario they had seen in many decades was playing out and yet they have won the battle. But make no mistake, the war will continue on.
Now what about this sad story that Caleb Hinkle tells about the big bad United Food and Commercial Workers and how they ruined his short life. In Hinkle’s bill presentation to House Business and Labor he claims that the union let him know before he started work about this obligation to join the union, also a time when the steward surely would have let him know about any initiation fee. Lie 1: he was not obligated to join the union and instead could have paid a representation fee as a non-member. Next came his difficult to believe tale regarding the union initiation fee that had yet to be paid some two months into the job, in this case and in his words, a $500 initiation fee. Pay or be fired. Lie 2: the UFCW does not have an exorbitant initiation fee and after doing a little checking it’s actually less than $50 with ability to pay over the course of six months and are cut in half if the new member attends a new member meeting. No need to believe what you’re reading, it’s all right here. Finally, young Caleb claims he was forced to leave. Lie 3: no, he made a choice to leave rather than contact the union and make arrangements to pay his fifty dollars or twenty-five discounted/show up fee.
So here’s the thing, and aside from the outright blatant falsehoods, Hinkle wasn’t forced to do anything and could have easily stayed in his new found deli job at minimum wage. Well, he called it minimum wage but neglected to mention the union negotiated health insurance, sick leave, vacation leave, job protections, just cause, due process, seniority and all the other benefits of a union contract to hopefully include a pension. You see he could have stayed on in his much needed job and rather than cry and complain about the union fees and initiation fee, he would have met his agreed upon obligation and then dug into the union and got himself elected as a local officer much like he did as a representative. From there he could have worked towards a better understanding of that initiation fee and where his dues went, but even more importantly, he could have worked towards change on those issues and helped guide the union for newly hired, young workers like himself. In the floor session today Representative Tschida gave the boy a pat on the head and uttered the word ‘courage’. Not sure where that courage was then, but sure.
Hinkle’s misrepresentations are a tiny part of today’s story but needed to be exposed. The real story today, and this week for that matter, is the death of every anti-labor bill brought forward in a session where the unions were sure of another pound of pressure on their necks by corporately funded forces that wish to kill them. That is no exaggeration folks. The important story today is labor remembered it’s roots, it’s power and who labor really is. Today’s presence was made up of trade union members in sticker plastered hard hats, firefighters, nurses, teachers, state employees, professionals, high school graduates and dropouts. You name it, they were there. The middle class of Montana showed up and made their voices heard. There’s a reprieve that’s been given here and it’s not the first time which begs the question to union members and union bosses alike. What will you do with this opportunity? Montana’s middle class, working poor and poor need you. Do not squander this opportunity. Educate, Agitate and Organize!!
‘Maybe all men got one big soul ever’body’s a part of.’