Instead of bedtime stories, Montana Governor Steve Bullock’s children used to fall asleep hearing the stories of the people he was about to represent as a union-side labor lawyer.
In an interview with Iowa Starting Line earlier this month, Bullock spoke about his experiences representing organized workers.
Bullock specifically mentioned one man who was a landfill operator in Billings, Montana. He was passed over for a job because he couldn’t read well.
“For labor arbitration … the lawyer on the other side was just beating him up for the fact he couldn’t read, even though reading had nothing to do with the job qualifications,” Bullock said. “And he goes to me at lunch, you could tell he was frustrated, he goes, ‘You’re right, I can’t read so well, but I put two kids through college by working in this dump every damn day and I should deserve the opportunity to have this promotion.’”
The governor said he used to represent cases dealing with everything from bus drivers who wanted a 15-minute break just like everyone else to women who were public employees and were getting paid less than men even though they were doing the same job.
He also noted that Montana is one of the only western states in America that isn’t a right-to-work state.
Bullock said the situation is getting dire, as there’s only half the number of unionized workers now as there was in the 1980s.
“Contract workers are now twice as many workers as unions. That includes public sector unions,” Bullock said. “The right to organize and collectively bargain and to support that and try to make it easier and not more difficult is critical not just for those workers, but for bringing up the middle class.”
Bullock said as someone who has “fought in the trenches” for unions, he recognizes the value of the ability to bargain for safer working conditions, decent wages and salaries.
Tonight will be Bullock’s first time on the Democratic debate stage, appearing with nine other candidates.
by Paige Godden