Approved by the MPEA Board of Directors
Candidate John Lewis Speaks at Annual Meeting
Congressional candidate John Lewis met with MPEA members May 16 at this year’s Annual Meeting in Billings.
Lewis, a fourth generation Montanan, provided those attending with his position on a number of issues important to labor, discussed a number of issues important to Montana and its economy and answered questions from MPEA members.
The Billings native noted that the support of labor has been essential to his campaign. He observed that Montana is surrounded by right-to-work states then said he supported collective bargaining, the proposed increase in the minimum wage and that he would oppose efforts to hurt working families.
Lewis said there was a well-funded effort to privatize social security, to further limit the rights of workers and to eliminate collective bargaining, and, that he was “willing to go the distance for working families.
“Whoever emerges among as the GOP congressional candidate will have access to big resources,” Lewis said. He then asked members to get involved in his campaign by discussing his position with at least 10 friends and family.
He said he believed there was a real divide between rural and urban community priorities then cited the Farm Bill as an example of the real need for a rural needs advocate. It took six years of negotiations for Congress to pass a five year bill. He said he would also work to make college more affordable again because he believes access to quality public education was one of the cornerstones of democracy.
Lewis expressed his concern for Montana’s aging population and said he would oppose any fundamental changes to either social security or Medicare.
In a question and answer session, Lewis was asked about his position on corporate taxation. He explained he was for a simpler code and believed there was a need to eliminate tax havens and also believes in closing tax loopholes that make it easier to ship jobs overseas. A tax haven is a country that offers foreign individuals and businesses little or no tax liability in a politically and economically stable environment. Tax havens also provide little or no financial information to foreign tax authorities. Individuals and businesses that do not reside a tax haven can take advantage of these countries’ tax regimes to avoid paying taxes in their home countries. Tax havens do not require that an individual reside in or a business operate out of that country in order to benefit from its tax policies.
A Yellowstone County public assistance worker queried Lewis on getting people out of poverty. He said he believed raising the minimum wage was a good start and that there were a number of efforts in other states that were proving useful. He then cited Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe efforts to expand Medicaid so a greater number of the poor could receive health care.
Clint Oman, public health and human services, said politicians seem unable to address issues and asked Lewis “how do you get the House off the dime?” Lewis said that “they are in constant campaign mode back there (Washington D.C.) and there needs to be a break in the gridlock.”
Lewis was also asked by a Revenue Department member “what would be the most unpopular thing that you would stand up for.” He responded that “one would be continued military reductions. We have five massive bases in Europe; continued reductions could begin there.
Lewis was born in Billings, reared in Missoula, has been married since 2001 and with his wife, Melissa, has two small children.
Commissioner Bucy Spoke at This Years Annual Meeting
The importance of collective bargaining, the on-going need to educate and train Montana’s work force, and, the need to close Montana’s wage gap between men and women were the principal themes of Labor Commissioner Pam Bucy banquet speech at MPEA’s Annual Meeting May 16 in Billings.
Bucy has a long history of public service having worked in the Department of Labor and Industry, as an assistant attorney general for seven years and as a prosecutor in the Lewis and Clark County Attorney’s office.
She told members that “you can’t have high quality services without having high quality public servants.” Bucy stressed her support of collective bargaining as an ingredient in securing and keeping high quality services. At an earlier meeting with members, Bucy explained that she was from a large Townsend family where her dad worked as a miner. “There was no health insurance for our family of seven or decent wages until my dad joined the Operating Engineers union.” Bucy, who describes herself as a “long-term” public employee, noted that in the last legislative “we had no one talking right-to-work.”
She sees Montana’s economy as one that needs to continue to grow and that must be built on a foundation that isn’t possible without a trained and educated workforce.
Toward this end, Bucy is one of the principal participants in Governor Bullock’s Main Street Montana Project. Wherever and whoever has been met with to date has stressed the importance of a well educated and well trained workforce. Some of the key ideas Bucy, mentioned included the importance of lifetime education from pre-school through adulthood. She also discussed the alignment of the state’s educational system with the needs of a changing economy. Development of job skills through apprenticeship programs was also discussed. She also made a case for getting women in traditional apprenticeship programs so they could become carpenters, electricians and plumbers.
The gap between what men are paid and what women receive for the same work is a problem desperately in need of correcting. Bucy noted that Montana now ranks 40th in the nation on “equal pay for equal work.” She also noted that this was an improvement.
“Women work just as hard as men and closing the wage gap is an important working family issue,” Bucy said. She also explained that an audit of the differences was expected near the end of May.
As mentioned earlier the labor commissioner intends to encourage more women into what have been men’s jobs such as plumbers, electricians, carpenters and construction. Bucy reminded members that unions have been and remain one of the significant forces helping to narrow the wage gap.
Bucy said she believed much of the wage gap problem was cultural but that “something was wrong when the garbage man starts at $20 an hour and the CNA (certified nurse assistant) starts at $9an hour.”
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