HELENA — A bill to establish “right-to-work” in Montana – which would have said people couldn’t be forced to join or pay dues to a union as a condition of employment – has been voted down in a state legislative committee. It comes days after the initial hearing, when union members and advocates rallied at the State Capitol in opposition to the proposal.
The House Business and Labor Committee voted 12-7 Wednesday to table House Bill 448, sponsored by Rep. James Bergstrom, R-Buffalo. Six Republicans and all six Democrats on the committee voted for the motion, while seven Republicans opposed it.
A 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling said public employees can’t be forced to pay a fee to a union if they’re not a member. HB 448 would have essentially extended that policy to private-sector workers. Supporters said workers should have the right not to pay money to a union whose policies they may not agree with, while opponents said the bill would have weakened unions’ ability to effectively bargain.
The vote came after a brief discussion by committee members. Bergstrom said he felt there had been “misinformation” about the bill. Rep. Derek Harvey, D-Butte, said bills like HB 448 “tend to go after the community that is built around unions.”
Unions also rallied at the Capitol in 2021, when the nearly identical House Bill 251 was proposed. That bill was voted down on the House floor, and advocates credited the strong show of opposition for that result.