Environment Montana Politics US Politics

This schism is getting old

According to a recent New York Times article, the blue-green battle continues within the Democratic Party — blue being blue-collar labor and green being environmentalists.

This time, construction unions are upset over an alliance between a hedge fund manager who happens to be an environmentalist and AFL-CIO leadership.

It’s a multi-layered story. First, hedge fund managers aren’t the most beloved, at least in my book. They often make obscene amounts of money and pay a ridiculously low tax rate on it. But a fellow named Tom Steyer is worried about climate change and is kicking $5 million into a PAC to help keep Donald Trump out of office. From the Times:

The rift developed after some in the labor movement, whose cash flow has dwindled and whose political clout has been increasingly imperiled, announced a partnership last week with a wealthy environmentalist to help bankroll a new fund dedicated to electing Democrats.

It’s troubling that Democrats are in bed with a hedge fund tycoon but the Times continues:

For decades, organized labor was among the most powerful forces on the left, financing Democratic candidates and reliably delivering working-class votes, and political foot soldiers, for the party in crucial states and districts.

But with blue-collar white voters shifting to the Republican Party and Democrats growing more reliant on higher-income voters and liberal donors like Mr. Steyer, environmental activists are increasingly muscling out unions.

In Montana, labor unions still have more clout with the Democratic Party than environmentalists — I’ve seen this firsthand — but the rift is definitely there. One has to wonder how this will play out. Membership is dwindling in the trade unions. For example, all of Denny Washington’s railroad and  mine workers are non-union. This would have been unthinkable a few decades ago. Union membership in Montana is increasingly made up of teachers and other government workers, and the service industry, but at this point, AFL-CIO leadership (and the Democratic Party, for the most part) still sides with the blue collar trades.

No one ever said this chasm would be easy to bridge but in this purple state of ours, Democrats cannot afford to lose either blue collar or green votes.

Now, party leadership hasn’t solicited my recommendations nor have I been tapped to replace DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Shultz, but I have some ideas.

There’s a common goal called sustainability: long term, good paying jobs along with a stable environment. Organized labor needs to work with environmental leaders to advance intensive clean energy legislation that includes high-paying union jobs in the alternative energy sector. Environmental organizations must make job creation a priority in their push to create a clean environment.

Basically, it’s time for leadership from both sides of the debate to sit down and plan what’s best for workers and the planet. A starting point could be booting from office the common enemy of the people — the living wage and climate change deniers — a.k.a. Republicans.

I don’t believe this blue-green schism comes close to approaching the debacle that is currently the Republican Party. The destructive potential is there, though, and Democratic Party leadership better bring the factions together and get a handle on this.

Finally, while stressing that it won’t support legislation that’s beneficial to hedge fund managers or Wall Street, the AFL-CIO should take the guy’s money and help get Democrats elected.







If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.


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  • For whatever reason, union leadership has fallen for the political rhetoric of both parties and most media coverage when it comes to the demise of the coal industry.
    I suspect the membership that actually works at Colstrip and the Powder River mines know exactly what’s happening because they’re not stupid. But even those workers have been pre-conditioned to blame the “environmentalists” for all the woes of their industry.
    When you look at the numbers in the marketplace, it’s clear that the demise of coal is due to the hard work of their fellow union members and non-union workers in the oil industry who, through horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, are producing a lower-cost fuel that’s easier to burn in the combined cycle gas turbines that are replacing 50-year-old, worn-out coal plants that require a small army to operate.
    EPA rules and the construction boom in wind turbines also contribute to the demise of coal, but only on the margins.
    The job losses in coal have been happening for decades, instituted by coal company management to boost profit margins. Peabody and Arch shifted investment from Appalachia to the Powder River to cut manpower costs. Power plant operators shifted to contract outfits to run their plants and escape the union pressure.
    If you follow the money, two-thirds of Wall Street investment in new power generation today is into renewables because that’s where the future lies as far as return on investment. Accommodating that shift will have its own costs — energy storage and transmission, demand management and integration with the grid — but the absence of a fuel cost that renewables enjoy still makes them a good bet.
    As for reliability, you can’t count on wind and solar day-to-day, but over the course of a 30-year investment there’s reliable data to predict pretty precisely how much wind and sunshine you can convert to electric power during those decades.

  • Union members are their own worst enemy, most union construction trades rely upon government projects to be competitive because of the Davis Bacon prevailing wage law. This law was passed and defended by Democrats, yet virtually all union trade members I know are hardcore republicans. Infrastructure road and bridge projects are also generally brought forward and passed by Democrats yet I do not know if I have ever met a heavy construction worker, union member or not, that is a Democrat. Being a Democrat and having spent the last 33 years working in and owning a business in this field has lead me to believe that the days of Democratic support for this industry are short lived. Outside of Billings and maybe GreatFalls union blue collar workers are pretty rare and even these tend to vote republican. The Montana Democratic party needs to represent its base and that base is public sector union workers, and people and organizations that support conservation and environmental issues.

  • FYI I cannot speak for the miners of Denny Washington but the railroad employees in Montana are union members and are represented by the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET)

    DB Kenner Chairman Montana State Legislative Board BLET

  • My apologies, DB. I just remember the controversy at the time, when the lease agreement between Washington Corp. and Northern Pacific went through. I actually attended the meeting in the theater at UM. It wasn’t a happy crowd. It went something like: “Accept our conditions or find another job.”

    From Wikipedia:

    This spin-off was controversial as it happened during contract negotiations between Burlington Northern and the United Transportation Union.

    I’m pretty sure the miners in the new Butte pit are nonunion, though.

  • “It’s troubling that Democrats are in bed with a hedge fund tycoon”

    Particularly when those democrats include Chelsea Clinton, who married hedge fund tycoon Marc Mezvinsky, who seems to be doing a wonderful job managing the Clinton’s millions, and smoothing the waters for his Wall Street hedge fund billionaire buddies.

  • “Democrats growing more reliant on higher-income voters and liberal donors ” This is the root of the problem. Higher income voters and liberal donors seem to set the agenda for Democrats. It works well running for the presidency – giving Dems and Obama the chance to out-fundraise even someone like Mitt Romney – but it doesn’t seem as effective on a State level, and I think part of the problem is that the messaging established on a national level often plays poorly in non-coastal states.

  • Well, as they say, there are no jobs on a dead planet, right?

    It’s always interesting to me how the media will always spill ink on a Blue vs Green schism, but then when Labor and Environmentalists come together to work on something together, well, that’s just not ’sexy’ enough to get much notice.

    Take Obama’s TPP, which is supported by the GOP leadership, Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable, Big Pharma and Wall Street, while being opposed nearly universally by organized labor, environmentalists, all ‘progressive’ members of Congress and the vast majority of Democrats, including the biggest champions of labor and green issues in Congress.

    If Congress approves the TPP it would be the largest NAFTA-style ‘free trade’ pact in world history, impacting nearly 40% of the global economy and pretty much all aspects of our daily lives. So it seems like a pretty big issue, especially when compared with the fairly insignificant nature of where some rich guy is donating his money.


    Over 2,000 Organizations Call on Congress to Oppose Fast Track Authority for the TPP (via Citizen Trade Campaign 4/27/2015)

    SNIP: “An unprecedentedly united movement of labor, environmental, family farm, consumer, faith, Internet freedom and other organizations escalated their campaign to defeat Fast Track trade authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) on April 27, 2015 with a joint 2,008-group letter urging Congress to oppose it.”


    Does labor have the oomph to stop Obama’s trade agenda? (via Politico 3/15/15)

    SNIP: “The AFL-CIO’s bold announcement last week that it would withhold contributions to congressional Democrats in advance of votes on fast-track trade promotion authority thrilled labor supporters and annoyed many Democrats.”


    Blue Green Alliance (http://www.bluegreenalliance.org/)

    BGA is a national partnership of labor unions and environmental organizations working to turn today’s environmental challenges into job-creating opportunities.

  • Hi Amanda so ur in my city Leeds, hope u enjoy it and it would have been great if i met u while u were hear it would be a dream come true, anyway enjoy it and im lookin forward to seeing u back on baaeitbtson love Ehsan, Leeds.

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Pete Talbot

'Papa’ Pete Talbot is first and foremost a grandfather to five wonderful grandchildren. Like many Montanans, he has held numerous jobs over the years: film and video producer, a partner in a marketing and advertising firm, a builder and a property manager. He’s served on local and statewide Democratic Party boards. Pete has also been blogging at various sites for over a decade. Ping-pong and skiing are his favorite diversions. He enjoys bourbon.

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