|State Superintendent Denise Juneau and MEA-MFT member Jill Cohenour: “5 & 5”|
Day after day during the 2013 legislative session, dozens of Montana state employees could be seen lining the halls of the state capitol during their lunch break, holding signs saying, “Free HB 13” and “Get Out of Jail Free Card needed.”
This grassroots outpouring made a big dfiference in the passage of HB 13, the state pay plan.
It came on top of MEA-MFT’s other efforts to pass HB 13. Along with MPEA and AFSCME, MEA-MFT organized two Days of Action, bringing hundreds of members to the capitol to talk to legislators. We mobilized members to call and e-mail legislators. We had Governor Steve Bullock on our side throughout the session.
For a while, it looked like majority party legislators in the 2013 session would stage a repeat of the 2011 session by holding HB 13 hostage until the end of the session and then killing it.
But MEA-MFT members, led by MEA-MFT Secretary Treasurer Rich Aarstad, senior archivist at the Montana Historical Society, weren’t having it.
First they mobilized fellow state employees from all three unions to spend their lunch hour in the halls of the capitol with signs urging the House Appropriations Committee to “Free HB 13.”
They also held a musical “flash mob” appearance in the capitol to draw attention to HB 13.
HB 13 finally emerged from the committee with amendments cutting $38 million from the bill and adding the unprecedented recommendation that state employee unions negotiate the remainder with the governor.
Attempts to restore the $38 million failed on straight party line votes.
As legislative leadership continued to delay action on HB 13, state employees continued to stand in the capitol halls week after week, politely asking legislators to “Free Bill.”
Bottom line: Freeze ended. HB 13 finally passed the legislature.
It did not include the specific, 5% across-the-board raises in base pay over the next two years that we negotiated in pay plan bargaining with Governor Schweitzer’s office.
Instead, the bill appropriated a lump sum of $113.7 million over the next two years for the executive branch to distribute in raises.
MEA-MFT and our fellow unions worked with Governor Bullock’s office to make sure that money took the form of 3% and 5% across-the-board base salary increases.
MEA-MFT’s state employee affiliates have been highly successful in bargaining those increases into their local contracts during the summer and fall of 2013. (Some locals are still in bargaining as of November 2013.)
HB 13 as passed also included the 10% increases in employer contributions to health insurance that we negotiated. This increase is saving state employees enough money to make up for the fact that they didn’t get 5% the first year.
Way to go, state employees!