As he continues his sparsely attended and substantively empty tour across the state of Montana, GOP gubernatorial candidate Greg Gianforte has made one thing clear: he won’t tell Montana workers where he stands on the right to organize in the private and public sector. That silence should be a clear warning to workers that he will not only continue, but lead the Republican agenda to destroy unions in Montana if he is elected governor. The evidence of that intent–and his willingness to deceive–can be heard in the candidate’s own words, embedded below.
Back in January, Gianforte told Face the State that Right to Work legislation wouldn’t be a priority for him. Those comments almost exactly echo those of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who led a Republican effort to destroy public sector unions in his state.
In stops in Butte and Ekalaka, Gianforte repeated his refusal to offer a substantive comment on Right to Work, no doubt because he simply doesn’t want to tell the truth: that he will certainly sign any Right to Work legislation authored by a Republican Legislature. The audio from Butte is incredibly dishonest. Asked repeatedly if he would sign Right to Work legislation, Mr. Gianforte kept retreating into a political non-answer about “not making it a priority” before wandering off to a talking point about his high school football days. Seriously.
In Ekalaka, after an incredibly long pause, Gianforte avoided answering the question, noting that he was being recorded by a Democratic tracker. It’s an astonishing admission that he won’t tell the truth to Montana workers, and a far cry from his claim that he is taking a consistent position as he travels across the state.
Right to Work, of course, is the Orwellian term for the Republican-led plan to give employers the right to exploit their workers and roll back the protections unions offer their members, from humane sick leave to safe working conditions. It’s little more than an opening from which Republicans and the corporations they represent hope to undermine the entire labor movement, depressing wages and increasing corporate profits.
The right wing Montana Watchdog made it clear Right to Work is such a priority for Montana Republicans that will explore every avenue to implement it, and the mounting evidence that Right to Work organizations went so far as to brazenly violate Montana campaign laws to pass their agenda shows that a Republican Legislature will certainly make moving against unions a top priority.
And Greg Gianforte will certainly sign that legislation. He’ll first go after public sector unions and then turn his attention to the private sector.
It’s got to be tempting for those who work in the state to be intrigued by Mr. Gianforte’s message: his claims that he will improve the economy have to resonate with some workers who are seeing their wages stagnate as the national economy continues to reward those at the top more than those who do the actual work of building this country. Even though Mr. Gianforte is not telling the truth about Montana’s economy, which has rebounded better than many states from the Great Recession, it’s undeniable that workers feel nervous about their economic economic stability. But to vote for Greg Gianforte would be to ignore two truths: that his promises of more job opportunities are based in fantasies about telecommuting workers, not actual policy, and that electing him will undermine the best protection workers have to ensure high wages and decent working conditions: the unions that have served those workers for decades.
In politics, we pay a lot of attention to the often rhetorically heavy but substantively light comments candidates offer—and Montana workers are likely to hear a great deal about Mr. Gianforte’s plan to bring business and jobs to Montana. What should concern workers—from those in the rail yard to those in the classroom—is not what Mr. Gianforte promises, but what he refuses to say. Under his administration, workers will lose, wages will be depressed, and the future will look a little less bright for the next generation of Montana workers.
It’s time for the Montana press to demand that Mr. Gianforte come clean and to explain why he refuses to explain how he’ll vote on this critical issue for Montana’s future.