Democrats unveil proposals to aid workers, unions

The Great Falls Tribune

September 15, 2020

Democratic candidates running for state office are warning that if Republicans got elected they would try to dismantle Montana’s proud union heritage.

Mike Cooney was joined by running mate Rep. Casey Schreiner and Attorney General Raph Graybill in unveiling a “New Day for Workers” part of a series of proposals Cooney has outlined as the Nov. 3 election nears.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Cooney discusses unions and Montana workers Monday during a campaign event in Helena.
The event Monday at the Laborers International Union grounds was attended by various union members and representatives.

The plan calls for measures such as Presumptive Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome, coverage for first responders, law enforcement and firefighters, enforceable pandemic workplace standards and increasing the apprenticeship tax credit to $1,500 for veterans and $1,000 for non-veterans to encourage employers to create apprenticeship jobs, that pay well, so people “earn while they learn.”

The plan also calls for infrastructure investments to create jobs in local communities and reviewing state laws that may discourage public sector workers from organizing for collective bargaining.

“Let’s be clear, the stakes in this race are real, and under my leadership will remain a leader in the labor movement and working women and men will always come first,” Cooney said, adding that under his opponent organized labor and the benefits and protections it provides, will cease to exist.

He said GOP candidate Greg Gianforte would try to make unions disappear “for good.”

The claims were denied by the Gianforte campaign.

"Greg supports unions," campaign manager Jake Eaton said, adding Democrats had resorted to scare tactics and cannot deny the facts. "Greg Gianforte has worked with union members, backed member priorities in Congress, and will support Montana workers as governor."

Speakers rededicated themselves to labor unions.

“It’s not hyperbole to say that the Montana we have today, the Montana we all know and love, would not exist if not for labor unions,” Schreiner, a Great Falls resident, said. “Every Montanan across the state owes a big debt of gratitude to the working men and women who came before them.”

Cooney, now serving as lieutenant governor, and Schreiner are running against Gianforte and his running mate, Kristen Juras. Graybill is running against Republican Austin Knudsen, who now is Roosevelt County attorney and former speaker of the state House.

Graybill said there was nothing more basic than the right to provide for your family and to put food on a family's table with dignity, and unions brought that. He said it was up to the attorney general to pick the fights against special interests.

He said labor is the backbone of the campaign and said he would be on the front lines to fight for their rights. He said he would stand up against dark money groups that come to Montana each election cycle, hoping to buy votes.

Graybill said he would fight for workers rights to organize collectively. He said he would defend employees who have been illegally mislabeled as "independent contractors" and fight attacks on bargaining rights that keep workers’ wages low and prevent them from negotiating for better protections and benefits.

He said he would defend workers’ pensions, health care and retirement benefits “by holding employers accountable for promises made.”

Graybill, a Great Falls native, said the Democratic slate would keep Montana a good place to work.

Knudsen said Tuesday evening that Graybill has never worked a real job.

"It’s comical that he now talks as if he has a clue what working people in Montana are going through as a result of the disastrous policies put forward in his time as Steve Bullock’s chief legal adviser,” Knudsen said.

Cooney said as governor he was committed 100% to defending the workers of Montana.

“Any right to work for less or other nonsense legislation aimed at workers’ rights crosses my desk, I will put it out of its misery at the hands of my veto pen,” he said.

He said his opponent, Gianforte, would like to see the labor movement “die a quick death.”

Cooney said health care workers, first responders and teachers are all on the front lines in the battle against the coronavirus.

"Our state needs a steady hand from the economic pain caused by COVID," he said.

The Gianforte campaign said while serving in Congress, Gianforte has consistently voted against efforts to repeal Davis Bacon and prevailing wage laws, and voted against the tax on union health care plans.

They said his "Montana Comeback Plan" lays out his priorities to help Montana's workforce, including but not limited to promoting trades education and apprenticeship programs.

Paid for by Friends of Raph Graybill, PO Box 2728, Great Falls, MT 59403. Democrat.

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