Union marches against PMC

By Buck Traxler, I-O  Editor
Union marches against PMC
UNION REPS — Pondera Medical Center union representatives dressed out in purple tee-shirts gather for a group photo on the courthouse steps on Wednesday afternoon before taking off to go up and down Main St. They are protesting stalled negotiations. I-O Photo by Buck Traxler
   Members of the local union, recently voted in, at the Pondera Medical Center (PMC) took to the streets on Wednesday afternoon.
   Bob Struckman, a communications director for Montana-Change That Works out of Missoula told the I-O, that the union feels it is not being rightfully recognized.
   He acknowledged, “that money is not a hot issue here, the issues are no open shop versus a union shop.”
Struckman went on to say,
   “They (the PMC administration) are trying to split up the bargaining union. When you have a secret ballot, we’d like them to honor that. That’s the key.”
   He also indicated that hospital employees are frustrated that clear and consistent polices that everyone understands are not in place.
   Struckman emphasized that Montana Change is not leading the way for the union, “I’m just a spokesperson for the local union here.” The union has approximately 60 members at the PMC and is over 40,000 strong in  Washington and Montana.
   According to Struckman, management and the union are not far off. Employees who are not union members can work at the hospital and can pay a smaller fee.
   “Benefits would be the same by law for everyone,” he noted. “It’s against the law to work for pay increases for some employees, so if there is a union, all the employees get the benefit.”
   Wearing purple t-shirts and carrying signs that said, “Honor or Vote,” or “Honk for Patients” the group marched up and down Main Street and met up at the Legion Park for a rally.
   Former Conrad Mayor Byron Grubb was on hand and told the members, “I’m a former union member with the post office, I support your cause.”
   In a related matter, Struckman said that Montana Change will start an 11-day 23 town tour in an ambulance to promote health care reform in the state.
   “We want to connect with locals on two important issues that will rebuild the economy; affordable health care and labor law reform,” he said.
   The event will kick off in Great Falls at the State Fair on July 26 and come to Conrad and be in Legion Park from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. for a rally to collect stories for the movement for health care reform and letter-writing campaign on July 27.
   From Conrad, the campaign will head out to Big Sandy and move on to points east such as Miles City before ending Libby Aug. 7.
   For more information, visit their Website at MTChangeThatWorks.org.