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Montana’s working families have a great ally representing them in Washington, D.C. As someone who continues to operate his family farm, Sen. Jon Tester knows the struggle that working people face and looks to alleviate these hardships through his legislation. He also actively speaks out against policies that negatively affect us.

More locally, Montanans regularly elect union members to our citizen legislature to craft policies and legislation benefiting working families at the state level.

Since we’ve seen the impact electing working people has, I have to ask myself, why are we limiting ourselves to representation in Helena and Washington?

The best example of the positive impact electing union members has for working families comes from New Jersey. While New Jersey and Montana may seem like worlds apart, our working families benefit from the same policies. A $15 minimum wage and paid family leave would be a boon to working Montanans. New Jersey’s state lawmakers made them a reality in January 2019. But the groundwork for these landmark victories started 20 years ago when union members in the state decided they were tired of politicians taking their money and then siding with corporate special interests when the time came to back up their talk. This resulted in a comprehensive program that saw myriad union members elected to county commissions, school boards, township supervisors and other down ballot offices.

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Copying this model in Montana stands to pay dividends for our working families. By enacting pro-worker policies in cities, counties and school districts we can create a model that can easily be duplicated statewide.

No one knows or understands the needs of working people like working people. We also must ensure that these needs are being addressed at every level of government. In order to make that happen, we need union members and working people serving in these positions.

Our message wins, the overwhelming majority of voters support things like higher wages, safe working conditions, and access to quality education.

Our message resonates, and we already have the infrastructure in place to be successful in elections. So I’m encouraging everyone out there reading to not just vote for union members when they’re on the ballot, but to also consider making a run.

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Clint Penny, of Helena, is the business manager and secretary-treasurer for Boilermakers Local #11.

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Opinion Editor

Opinion editor for The Billings Gazette.