For Montana’s labor movement, it was a fight for life. In the Montana House of Representatives, where Republicans hold a 67-33 majority, union foes wanted to pass a so-called “right to work” bill, banning any requirement that workers pay dues to the unions that represent them. Twenty-seven states, mostly in the South and Midwest, have such laws, intended to weaken unions by starving them of resources.
But as the vote neared, hundreds of union members packed Capitol hallways in Helena for two days straight, and filled the gallery when the vote was scheduled. On March 2, the bill went down hard, 38-62, with 29 Republicans joining all 33 Democrats voting no.
In its mines and mills, Montana has a storied union past. Today 10.5% of Montana workers are union-represented, about the same as the national average.
Supporters of right to work say they plan to bring it up again in the 2023 legislative session.