Labor Day Picnic

Union members and their families enjoy lunch Monday at the Greater Yellowstone Central Labor Council Picnic at Rose Park.

HANNAH POTES/Gazette Staff

The Billings Gazette recently printed a column (March 13 Darrell Ehrlick's From the Editor) portraying Bob Winger as a voice of organized labor. We take issue with that assertion. Winger does not hold any elected position within the labor movement, including the Boilermakers Union from which he is retired. As the Gazette column points out, Winger is a one-man show, which directly contradicts the spirit of organized labor.

We find it troubling that Winger would be allowed such a platform. He has made his priorities clear and those priorities are not in line with working Montanans. He pals around with politicians like Greg Gianforte who would strip workers of their rights to stand together for better pay, fair benefits, and safety in the workplace. That is not what the labor movement is about.

Gianforte is desperate to convince voters that he has a genuine relationship with unions and, by association, the union workers of Montana. That’s just not the case.

The benefits that Winger receives from his union are the product of years of collective bargaining. He forgets that he is standing on the backs of all of the union workers that came before him. He forgets that collective bargaining is why he has his retirement benefits, not the coal company. He forgets that workers died to give him the right to bargain with an employer.

Winger is supporting a candidate that will destroy Montana working families’ legal right to stand together and bargain for better wages and safer working conditions. Since announcing his candidacy, Gianforte has refused to answer whether or not he supports workers’ right to come together to support each other in the workplace and he has refused to oppose Right to Work laws which would lower wages, slash benefits and threaten work safety if implemented in Montana.

Additionally, Gianforte has repeatedly refused to meet with the Montana AFL-CIO, which represents 50,000 Montana workers. He refused to meet with the elected leadership of other unions. It’s probably because he’d rather parade around fake leaders than answer tough questions.

Gianforte doesn’t place a high priority on working Montana families.

The labor movement is about standing together and improving the lives of working people, not dividing people because of a personal vendetta or agenda. Winger is welcome to speak for himself, but he should stop peddling himself as a union man when he stands against the interests of working men and women who are fighting for dignity in the workplace.

Gianforte would do well to remember that you are judged by the company you keep. When you associate with people who falsely represent themselves and are willing to say anything in an attempt to push their own narrow agenda, voters are justified in assuming the same about you.

Darrell Johnson is president of The Greater Yellowstone Central Labor Council. Kim Rickard is the secretary-treasurer of LIUNA Local 1686. Henry Cellmer is president of the Southeastern Montana Building & Construction Trades Council.

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