Montana Politics

Editorial Judgment at the IR: Let’s Give Dennis Rehberg a Labor Day Column

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Twelve hours after first reading today’s Independent Record, I’m still amazed that the editors in Butte felt it appropriate to give an opinion column over to Representative Dennis Rehberg on Labor Day. After searching for an apt analogy to describe just how inappropriate that decision was, I kept coming back to Rehberg. Presumably the IR will next print his insights on Firefighter Appreciation Day or during National Drunk and Drugged Driving Awareness Week.

Only those could be less appropriate.

Contrary to what subdivision ranchers in Congress might think, Labor Day is not the culmination of a month-long taxpayer funded vacation, but a celebration of the importance of the union movement and workers in this country. As the Department of Labor notes, the day is “dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”

And that’s what makes printing Rehberg’s pablum today so absurd and so offensive. Throughout his career in government, Rehberg has been hostile to the unions and workers today is meant to celebrate.

His 2010 record best summarizes his hostility towards the labor movement. He opposed the AFL-CIO (0%), the American Federation of Government Employees (0%),  American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (0%), the  International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (25%), the  International Brotherhood of Boilermakers (0%), and the Communications Workers of America (0%)—all while pushing for huge benefits to corporations, including those who have moved their workforces overseas.

Specifically, in the just the past few sessions of Congress, he’s voted:

  • against blocking harassment of those who want to form unions.
  • against bargaining rights for workers.
  • against mine safety regulations that save lives.
  • against extension of unemployment benefits.
  • against ending workplace discrimination against woman.
  • against paycheck fairness.
  • against good jobs that prevented unemployment during the recession.

And that’s just a part of his anti-labor record. His lockstep support for the reactionary anti-labor Republican caucus hurts Montana workers and families.

Even if you’ve swallowed the Fox News-led propaganda war against unions and oppose them (along with, I suppose, decent working conditions, vacation time, sick leave, a decent wage, the 40 hour week and all the other reforms labor provided), Rehberg’s hostility towards workers extends past his hostility towards unions.

He’s never on their side, no matter what his rhetoric claims.

Believe in a decent minimum wage? Rehberg fought it and repeatedly voted against increasing it, until it was tied to reductions in estate taxes for millionaires like himself. Hell, he doesn’t even know what the minimum wage is.

Believe your kids should have a chance at a better life with a college degree? Rehberg thinks they’re welfare recipients.

Rehberg is so out of touch, that despite owning millions of dollars worth of inherited property, he told workers—many of them unemployed—that he’s struggling just like them.

When it comes to the working middle class, Rehberg is almost always wrong and almost always against them. His voting record for the middle class is a shameful collection of Fs, perhaps only beaten by his college transcript.

rehberg

Rehberg is right about one thing. American does belong “to the men and women with dirt under their fingernails,” but he’s been doing his best to sell it to the highest bidder, undermining the workers who made this country what it is at every opportunity.

In the end, it’s probably unsurprising that the corporate media would give a day dedicated to labor over to someone who has has supported the company’s anti-union stance and anti-labor policies.

Unions have fought much craftier opponents than Dennis Rehberg and Lee Enterprises, though. We’ll win this fight, win this race, and win back a better future for the real producers of the American Dream.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is a seventeen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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