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Jon Tester

A Union Lockout Could Decide Control of the Senate

Senator Jon Tester is counting on fired up union workers to deliver him a victory in Montana

Posted on
Oct 30, 2018

Every day we hear how close the midterm elections will be. Control of the United States Senate is expected to come to down to just a few seats. One of those seats is in Montana where a group of locked-out union workers could decide the election. Read more below from Politico's Morning Shift and read the full article from The Nation.

LOCKOUT LINCHPIN? The fight over a Montana Senate seat could hinge on a group of union workers picketing the Imerys America talc-milling plant in Three Forks, Gabriel Furshong reports in the Nation. The workers were locked out on Aug. 2--six days after Imerys announced an 11.9 increase in revenues for the first half of 2018--when the workers voted overwhelmingly to reject a contract that reduced overtime pay, froze pensions, and eliminated health insurance for new retirees. It was Montana's first lockout in 38 years.

Incumbent Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) has been visiting the picket line, and earlier this month he introduced legislation to prohibit foreign corporations like Imery from receiving tax incentives if they lock out workers during a labor dispute. Tester's opponent, State Auditor Matt Rosendale (for whom Donald Trump Jr. has been stumping in recent weeks) has not visited the strikers, Furshong reports, and although he signed a GOP statement protesting the lockout ("Imerys should do the right thing and meet with the boilermakers") he didn't respond to requests to meet with the union, Local D239 of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers.

Could Tester's support for the union give him the edge he needs to beat Rosendale in a tight race for a seat that might tilt control of the Senate? "This issue won't make or break a campaign," David Parker, a political-science professor at Montana State University, told Furshong. "Though it does feed into a larger narrative that Tester's campaign is telling, which is he's the guy who looks after the little guy, and this is a piece of the populism pie that Rosendale isn't talking about." Furshong reports that close elections are common in the state; Tester won by only 3,500 votes in 2006.

"To me, it shows who really cares about the working people of this state," Randy Tocci, a locked-out worker at the Imery plant, told Furshong. "Neither Matt Rosendale nor [Republican Rep.] Greg Gianforte have set foot on the line and shown support for us.... It looks like they're backing the multimillionaires and not the working people of Montana." Read more from the Nation here.

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