Empty Chairs at Union Halls

Aaron Flint posted on September 04, 2012 14:01 :: 1669 Views

Call his speech bizarre, call it oddly brilliant, call it whatever you want.  Either way, it has been remarkable to see the legs that the empty chair used during Clint Eastwood’s speech has gotten over the Labor Day weekend.  On Facebook, Tea Partiers from Montana were sharing a photo of a forest.  What was standing by each tree? An empty chair meant to symboilize jobs lost in the timber industry.   

I had an empty chair in the studio during our live statewide radio talk show and asked listeners- who should be in this chair?  If they actually decided to show up, what would you ask them?  We got some interesting responses, of course a few callers brought up Senator Jon Tester and his vote in support of Obamacare.  A conservative caller from Kalispell said he’d like to see Mitt Romney in the chair, and that he would ask him if he would repeal all of President Clinton and President Obama’s Executive Orders.

Well, if you need help moving that empty chair, make sure you call a union rep first.  

In case you missed it, the head of the AFSCME did a little empty chair routine of his own.  As Politico reports, newly elected AFSCME president Lee Saunders then began throwing and kicking a chair, pretending that it was occupied by Clint Eastwood.     

Saunders isn’t the only frustrated labor leader at the Democratic National Convention this year. American unions, in the throes of a long slide, have had perhaps their worst run ever facing not only the usual declining membership rolls, but also a public repudiation in a Wisconsin recall vote that centered on the place of public sector workers. Adding to that, the Democratic Party’s choice of Charlotte as the convention was a slap in the face: North Carolina has right-to-work laws and virtually no union presence. The fact that unions couldn’t influence the Democrats’ decision on location a testament to their less-than-omnipotent position.

Speaking of empty chairs, The Great Falls Tribune had an article over the weekend headlined “Changing Face of Labor in Montana” by David Murray

Here’s an excerpt:

According to the Montana Department of Labor and Industry, organized labor was at its height in Montana during the 1950s. In the first decades after World War II, there were roughly 240 union locals across the state, the largest and most powerful of which belonged to the United Mine Workers of America, the Railroad Brotherhoods or the United Steel Workers, which beginning in the mid-50s oversaw labor negotiations for Montana’s metal miners, smelter men and mill workers.

Today, the face of organized labor is vastly different. Figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that in 2011, only 13 percent of Montana workers belonged to a union.

And to that, I leave you with yet another question.  To what can we attribute these empty chairs at Montana union halls?

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