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Missoula County opposes “right to work” measure in Legislature

As the Legislature enters the midway point, Missoula County will try one last time to oppose a bill making it harder for labor unions to collect dues, including right-to-work measures.

In doing so, they’re siding with organized labor and its allies who contend that right-to-work measures are an attempt to undermine unions, particularly those representing government workers.

“Missoula has a long history of collective bargaining with most of our staff covered by collective bargaining agreements,” said Chris Lounsbury, the county’s chief administrative officer. “We’ve had a long, productive relationship and we’d like to see that continue.”

In late February, Republicans on a House committee sent to the floor a bill that would make Montana a “right to work” state, meaning labor unions would be barred from collecting fees from non-members they represent in the workplace.

Labor unions strongly oppose so-called “right to work” laws, saying their main purpose is to undermine the power of labor to organize workers. They’ve also argued that right-to-work laws lead to lower wages and worse working conditions.

But supporters contend that a right-to-work designation would make Montana more attractive to businesses. They also believe they’ve proven to increase wages for workers.

Twenty-seven states have right-to-work laws, including Idaho, Wyoming, and North and South Dakota.

“We have commented in opposition to that bill,” Lounsbury said. “It would make it so, in essence, you could have union members and non union members performing the same job but under different rules. It makes it complicated and difficult for supervisors to deal with. We’ll see whether or not it makes it out of the House and over to the Senate.”

The Senate ended the first half of its session at midnight on Monday. The House is still meeting.