UPDATED: GOP Responds to Union Complaint

UPDATED May 27, 1:20 PM

Legislative Republicans are responding to a complaint filed by state employee unions in Montana, angry after the legislature rejected a proposed pay raise.  The GOP response: as private sector struggles, public sector wants more.   

Here’s the full release, e-mailed from MT GOP Legislative Caucus Communications Director Chris Shipp:

As many private sector workers face the grim prospects of unemployment or wage cuts, out-of-touch public union bosses in Helena inexplicably insist on taking even more of their tax dollars. Representatives for three public employee unions took legal action against the state of Montana Wednesday, demanding raises for public employees who already receive total compensation averaging nearly double what the private sector takes home.

“The Legislature values the great work done by our public employees. That is why we kept wages at their current levels, even as state agencies saw across the board reductions in their budgets,” said Senate Majority Leader Jeff Essmann. “However, these public employee union bosses are shaking down already burdened taxpayers for even more money when Montanans are struggling to pay their bills and stay current on their mortgage payments. It is reprehensible.”

Legal counsel for the state legislature advised leadership they were under no obligation to approve a 2010 compensation deal negotiated exclusively by the executive branch. The Montana Constitution prevents the executive from exercising authority over a separate, independent branch of government.

“In the unlikely event of a special session, there is no guarantee wages will stay at their current levels,” said House Majority Leader Tom McGillvray. “The private sector is being forced to make do with less; it is quite possible public employees could face the same scenario if the legislature is called back to Helena.”

Public employee unions are unique because their employer (the government) faces no opposition from a similar competing entity. The only incentive to control costs comes from taxpayers, who ultimately pay for any increases in public employee salaries.

“Taxpayers are already on the hook for a $1.5 billion unfunded liability in the public employee pension system. Previous legislatures promised extremely generous pensions to these public employees and didn’t provide the money to pay for it,” continued Essmann. “We can’t give out even more in salaries and benefits until we figure out how to pay for the compensation that has already been promised.”


So- he won’t actually be voting for his own complaint, but all his buddies on the board will. 


Well, isn’t this convenient?

That was a “tweet” via Marnee Banks, the capital reporter for Montana’s CBS TV stations.

UPDATE:  As Montana Watchdog reports, unions representing state employees in Montana are filing a formal complaint with the Board of Personnel Appeals.  This, after the state legislature rejected a proposed pay raise for state employees. 

Phil Drake has this:

Three employee unions filed an unfair labor practice against the state of Montana on Wednesday, claiming the state Legislature, which struck down pay increases, failed to bargain in good faith and act in a timely manner over the raises the unions had negotiated with the governor.
Also named as a defendant in the complaint filed with the state Board of Personnel in Helena was House Speaker Mike Milburn, R-Cascade.

Meanwhile, John Adams reports that the complaint, if successful, could force a special session of the Montana State Legislature:

MEA-MFT, the Montana Public Employees Association, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) announced at a press conference at the Capitol this morning that they planned to submit the complaint to the state Board of Personnel Appeals.

If the Board of Personnel Appeals finds in favor of the three unions, the unions will demand that the state come back to the bargaining table to negotiate. Union leaders said this could force the Legislature to return to Helena for a special session to ratify a pay plan agreement.

PRIOR POST Tues. May 24th

Another lawsuit? A strike?  Who knows, but the MEA-MFT says they and two other state employee labor unions will be announcing their course of action Wednesday morning in Helena.

Press release:

News conference: Unions to make important announcement about state pay plan

WHAT: In the wake of the 2011 Legislature’s failure to pass the state pay plan (House Bill 13), the three unions representing most Montana state employees have been considering steps they can take on behalf of state employees. They will announce their course of action at the news conference.

WHO: Leaders and members of the three largest unions representing Montana state employees: MEA-MFT; Montana Public Employees Association; and American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

WHEN: 10:00 a.m., Wednesday, May 25.

WHERE: Fan window area, third floor, state capitol, Helena.

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