A labor standoff at a milling plant in Three Forks came to end late Tuesday, closing a three-month lockout that drew the ire of Montana Sen. Jon Tester and the state’s largest labor union.
The International Boilermakers Union Local D239 has been in contract negotiations with Imerys America since May, and has been without a contract since June, according to the Montana Standard.
The Montana AFL-CIO on Wednesday said the boilermakers approved a new contract with Imerys and will return to work in early November. That ends a three-month lockout – the first in Montana in 30 years.
Imerys is a French-owned multinational corporation.
Al Ekblad, executive secretary of the Montana AFL-CIO, called the deal a victory for working people across the country.
“For three months, the labor movement and corporate interests have both been watching this lockout and what they just saw was amazing,” Ekblad said in a statement released Wednesday.
“Three dozen union workers, supported by their community and their union brothers and sisters around the state, just beat a huge multinational corporation, proving that when we stand together, working people can get a fair deal for a hard day’s work.”
Tester, along with Democratic House candidate Kathleen Williams, has watched the negotiations closely and lent support to the workers. Tester rallied with union workers in early September.
“Despite Imerys’ selling their workers downstream, hard-working families in Three Forks, Butte, and Bozeman remained strong and united during this unjust lockout,” Tester said in a statement. “Today is welcome news for all working Montanans, but this lockout serves as a reminder that not all corporations reflect our Montana values.”
Tester has sponsored legislation that would eliminate tax breaks, credits and deductions for corporations that lock their workers out during labor disputes.
“I will continue to hold multinational corporations accountable to Montana and ensure they no longer are able to upend the lives of local families without paying the price,” Tester said.
Both Gov. Steve Bullock and Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney also visited Three Forks throughout the lockout to meet with workers on the picket line. Bullock sent a letter to Imerys general manager in August urging the company to return to the negotiating table.
“I’m pleased the company and the workers were able to come together and find a solution,” Bullock said Wednesday. “Montanans all across the state can be proud of these workers for their unwavering commitment and for showing that the rights of workers are always worth fighting for.”
Rep. Greg Gianforte also weighed in Wednesday on the resolution.
“Hardworking Montanans were at the table, ready to negotiate for 90 days, and today their good faith effort paid off. Imerys joined them at the table, and I’m happy to see these Montanans are going back to work with a deal.”