Why is the Montana AFL-CIO Lying to Justify a Terrible Endorsement of Steve Gibson?

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Yesterday, I wrote a piece excoriating the MEA-MFT for its terrible endorsement of Steve Gibson before reading the opinion piece from the AFL-CIO president Tammy Pilcher defending that organization’s endorsement of Gibson.  To defend her union’s endorsement, Pilcher relied on a mixture of distortions and outright falsehoods that demonstrate just how wrong the AFL-CIO and MEA-MFT endorsements were.

It seems pretty simple: if you have to lie to justify an endorsement of a candidate, perhaps you shouldn’t endorse him at all.

Pilcher writes:

In the 2013 Legislative Session, Gibson was good on education.

Not according to the state’s largest education union, the MEA-MFT, for which Pilcher has worked for years. They ranked Gibson at 61%, lower than a number of Republicans in a historically anti-education year for Republicans.

Pilcher writes:

Gibson supports same-day voter registration, which should be an undisputed element in achieving full voter participation in public elections everywhere.

That is flatly untrue. Gibson voted for HB 30, which would have ended same day registration. The MEA-MFT 2013 Legislature voting record makes this clear, too.

Pilcher writes:

He also opposed the measure called ‘top two primaries’ that would have most likely eliminated Libertarians and Independent candidates from election ballots.

Flatly untrue again. He voted for SB 408, which will put the top two “Jungle Primary” on the ballot  in the 2014 election.

Pilcher writes:

He also opposed legislation that would prevent employers from being held fully accountable for the wrongful discharge of workers.

Flatly untrue. Gibson voted for SB 148, which would have allowed employers to drastically reduce the amount they owed wrongfully discharged employees. The Montana AFL-CIO called called SB 148 “priority legislation” to oppose, describing it as a get out of jail cheap bill to make it easier for employers to “wrongfully discharge” employees.”

Pilcher writes:

He opposed a bill that would use taxpayer dollars to subsidize private and religious-based schools that would not have been held to the same standards and criteria for quality education as public schools.

Sort of true, but mostly false. Gibson voted for HB 213, which the MEA-MFT said “created unconstitutional, taxpayer funded tuition tax credits for private and sectarian schools.” Back in 2013, Eric Feaver identified HB 213 as one of six bills on education it was most important to kill.

In an absurd attack on four former Democratic chairs who endorsed Dunwell, Pilcher writes:

“The Chairs suggest they know who the working men and women of the Montana labor movement should select, better than the workers know for themselves.

That’s actually what bad employers tell workers, too. They tell workers they don’t need a union because the company knows what’s best for them. But the employer’s decisions on behalf of the workers never seems to work out as well for the workers as it does for the boss man.

I’m not sure that Ms. Pilcher understands the terrible irony of this claim. At the close of a piece asking workers to vote for a candidate who has a demonstrated record of opposing public education, the irony of her criticism of “the boss man” telling voters what to do by lying to them is almost too much to bear. To imply that former chairs Elliot, Anderson, McDonald and Ream have anything but the interest of labor in Montana in mind is as unfair as it is untrue, and Pilcher should be ashamed of herself for the suggestion.

I thought it was cynical politics at its worst for the president of the Montana AFL-CIO to endorse Representative Gibson and work against a better champion of labor in this race; that she had to lie about his record and was willing to assail the reputations of our partners and long-time allies in the Democratic Party to do so only demonstrates that I have a lot to learn about cynicism and politics.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-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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