May – MEA-MFT President Eric Feaver submitted the following open letter to Governor Brian Schweitzer to newspapers across Montana in the wake of the 2011 Legislature’s failure to pass a state pay plan:
Dear Governor Schweitzer:
Please accept my thanks for your outspoken commitment to Montana workers and their right to organize and bargain collectively.
During your service to our state, you have four times bargained in good faith with state employee unions a state employee pay plan to present to four different legislatures for ratification. Three legislatures ratified the plans we bargained.
I know it troubles you as much as it troubles me that your fourth and last legislature flat refused to ratify the modest increase in state employee pay that we bargained. Way late the pay plan barely escaped the House Appropriations Committee only to die an ignominious death in the full House on the next to the last day of the session. Sixty-one members of the House ignored the fact that this state has plenty of unencumbered revenue that could easily fund the proposed state employee pay increase for the 2013 biennium. Everybody in Montana should know that the 2011 legislature threw state employees under the bus for no fiscal reason whatsoever.
Consequently, after having bargained with you a pay freeze ratified by the 2009 legislature to help ease our state through the Great Recession, state employees now face more of the same for the next two years. If nothing changes, as calendar years go, state employee base pay will be frozen for five long years. This is simply outrageous, totally unacceptable.
Governor, I am hopeful the last word in this lamentable chapter in our state’s history has not yet been spoken. But whatever may come next, I will remain grateful for your commitment to a collectively bargained and legislatively ratified pay plan that better compensates and respects state employees who do the work that matters.