Jun 8, 2012 10:31 AM by Marnee Banks - MTN News
HELENA - A new series of television advertisements addressing union activity have hit the airwaves in Montana. The Center for Union Facts has spent several hundred thousand dollars running them.
It's part of a national campaign pushing for the passage of the Employee Rights Act.
The Center's executive director Rick Berman says the ads are not anti-union: "It's pro-employee and if employees want to be in a union and they feel they are being treated fairly, this legislation will not affect their lives in any dramatic way."
The proposed act amends federal labor law to require union members to vote every three years on whether or not the union should exist. Under current law once unions are formed they exist indefinitely unless the workers vote to decertify.
However, President of Montana's largest union Eric Feaver says these attacks are dangerous and aim to get rid of unions altogether.
"Unions have built the middle class in this country, they have built it in this state. It's unions that have provided health care insurance, and pensions for folks and salaries on which people can live," Feaver says. "This is a union state. Much of this state began in the worker mines in Butte. This is part of our tradition every bit as much as wrangling cows and cutting trees."
He says as the 2012 election cycle progresses voters need to think about who supports the right to collectively bargain.
"You can simply look at the Republican Party agenda, which appears to be hostile to union interests, and the Democratic Party agenda which appears to be forthcoming and embracing of unions," Feaver says.
Montana Republican Party Executive Director Bowen Greenwood says Montana Republicans support unions.
"We support working people. The main campaign issue moving forward is we want more better paying jobs here in Montana and that obviously involves unions in a central way. But it's not about unions, it's about jobs for the people of Montana," Greenwood says.
Any decision to change the labor laws in Montana will impact nearly 56,000 Montana workers.
U.S. Representative Denny Rehberg (R-MT) is a cosponsor of this legislation.