|Rallying for the Veterans Home in Columbia Falls
Apr. 12 – Could it be the third time is finally the charm? Once again, MEA-MFT and our members have stopped an attempt to close and privatize the Montana Veterans Home in Columbia Falls.
House Joint Resolution 30, Rep. Bill Beck’s bill to provide for an interim study of privatization of the Montana Veterans Home, was tabled in the House State Administration Committee today.
HJR 30 follows on the heels of two outright attempts by state Sen. Dave Lewis (R-Helena) to close and privatize the Montana Veterans Home. More than 150 people work at the Home — mostly MEA-MFT members. All of them stood to lose their jobs, and Montana veterans stood to lose their quality of care.
After MEA-MFT and our members stopped the first attack on the floor of the House, Lewis, who chairs the Senate Finance & Claims Committee, submitted an amendment to that committee to close and privatize the Home.
Once again, MEA-MFT mobilized our members at the Home, along with veterans and family members of veterans. Once again, our members and others called and e-mailed legislators and persuaded enough Republicans to join all Democrats in voting against the amendment. Grassroots democracy works!
Vets Home Rally photos by Bill Howell. See them in bigger size at our Flickr site.
RALLYING FOR THE VETS HOME: MEA-MFT members, veterans, community leaders, family, and friends rallied Saturday, March 19, in Columbia Falls to support the Home as a public institution that has delivered outstanding care to Montana veterans since 1897.
MEA-MFT Field Consultant Bill Howell attended the rally – here’s what he reports:
“Due to the heavy wet snow falling, the 50-75 folks rallied spread out under tall evergreens just inside the entrance to the Veterans Home. Lots of homemade placards.
“About a third of the group were MEA-MFT members from the facility. Cheryl Wilder from Whitefish and Gene Marcille, president of the Columbia Falls teachers were in attendance.
“Mike Bennett and Dennis House of the VFW led off the rally with a brief history of the home and the efforts to keep the home PUBLIC. They both stressed how this issue has brought the VFW and the union (MEA-MFT) together with a common cause.
“Donald Barnhart, Mayor of Columbia Falls, told the group that he and the city council were joining the fight to keep the home a public institution. The mayor added that the Vets Home is part of Columbia Falls history.
“Anne Bullock, president of our local unit, told the crowd about the petition drive and gathered more signatures at the rally. I briefly spoke about the efforts of MEA-MFT, specifically Terry Minow in fighting privatization.
“Joren Underdahl, superintendent of the Vets Home, told of being in Helena yesterday to speak against Rep. Dave Lewis’s (R-Helena) amendment to privatize the home.
“Three ‘kids’ spoke about grandfathers and uncles who had spent time in the home and how much it had meant to them.
“An attorney from Portland was there because her father was recently accepted at the Vets Home. He had been in another long term care facility in the valley. She spoke of an incident at the other facility where her father late at night was left alone in a darkened hallway. …”
Congratulations and thanks to our members at the Veterans Home and others who helped stop three efforts to close the Home!