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I Stand with Three Forks – Andy Shirtliff

(Ed. note: The French company Imerys has locked out 35 Montana employees at a Three Forks, Montana talc plant after the union employees did not sign a contract forced on them by Imerys that would take away the workers’ retiree insurance, seniority, overtime clauses, as well as altering their work rules and classifications.)

News report from Bozeman based KBZK:

Nearly three dozen workers and their families were on the picket line in Three Forks on Friday morning after they were locked out of Imerys Talc America.

Imerys, a company based in France, took over the plant about seven years ago. They are taking away the union workers’ retiree insurance, seniority, overtime clauses, as well as altering their work rules and classifications.

The union workers didn’t ratify the new contract with the company, and as of 7 p.m. Thursday 35 union workers were locked out of their jobs.

The union workers haven’t stopped protesting since the lockout.

“We’re not happy that they’re coming in to take our jobs. We’re not striking, they took us out and told us they didn’t want us there,” said Rendy Tocci, president of Boilermakers Local D-239.

“We’re willing to go to work tomorrow as long as they change their conditions and try to come to the table and change some of the things they’re negotiating for that we’re not agreeing with,” Tocci said.

I Stand with Three Forks

By Andy Shirtliff

Montanans are known for their untiring work ethic, providing quality work, and staying true to their word. When a French-owned company takes away the benefits of 35 Montanans and locks them out their jobs; to me, something doesn’t sound right.

I went to Three Forks this past weekend to get some answers but ended up coming home with more questions.

It’s not what they’re offering, it’s what they’re taking away.

– Randy Tocci, President of the Boilermakers D-239

Due to failed contract negotiations, the union employees of the Three Forks Imerys Talc plant were locked-out Thursday night, and not allowed to go back to work.

Why did the negotiations fail?

All these hard working Montanans want to do is work in a good job to provide for their families, to have decent health insurance, and to put a little away for retirement.

Instead of investing in experienced Montanans, the French-owned corporation chose to strip the workers of their promised benefits and retirement plans.

Why would a foreign-owned corporation that benefited from the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” a corporation that makes $1 million in profit each month, $12 million in profit a year, feel the need to cut jobs, and take away the retirements of these workers? Some who’ve worked at the plant for over thirty years!

The answer is greed. Plain and simple.

These men and women are choosing to stand up for what is rightfully theirs, and refuse to accept an offer that is almost as criminal as it is insulting. Their jobs and the benefits they’ve earned through years of hard work are being taken from them by a faceless corporation on the other side of the Atlantic, who refuses to listen.

Imerys brought the same old contract to the negotiating table three times, refusing to ever include the benefits that not only retain and attract good talent but are the benefits these men and women have earned over their years working at the Three Forks talc plant.

Any loss of jobs is hard for a community, especially in a small Montana town like Three Forks that relies on this company to keep their families afloat. Some of the folks I met with drive from as far away as Deer Lodge just to work at the plant, and now they might have to find a job somewhere else.

Their families relied on their salaries, their benefits, and they looked forward to having a decent retirement to do more of the things they love; like fishing and hunting, visiting their kids in college, going on a trip or fixing up their house.

Like the newlyweds who were married just three weeks ago. They are lucky enough to have a second income to tide them over until this situation gets resolved, but one of them may be forced to find another job.

They relied on this job to build a family together, but this company chose profits over people.

Or the man who is worried that he won’t be able to find another job, that, “No one wants a broken down old man, it’s sad but true.” Another man who worked at the plant for over thirty years, who planned out his retirement, but due to this incident will have to wait another ten years before he can leave. These workers rely on these jobs for their livelihoods and security in their retirement.

This corporation chose to line their own pockets, on the backs of these workers.

Five days ago, 35 union workers, their families, and supporters took a stand, not just for their jobs, but for the well-being of their community, the livelihood of families, and the future of our state.

I’ve had the opportunity to travel our great state many times over, and I’ve worked with folks from every walk of life and every political stripe.

These men and women in Three Forks are our friends, our families, and our neighbors.

I was proud to join the picket line with them to hold this corporation accountable; to call on Imerys to come back to the negotiating table in good faith and give these Montana workers the benefits they’ve earned as a part of their contract.

Join me to #StandWithThreeForks

Andy Shirtliff

Five ways you can help, from the Montana AFL-CIO:

  1. JOIN THE PICKET LINE! 2150 Bench Rd, Three Forks, MT 59752
  2. Call Imyres at ?(406) 404-0422 and tell them to end the lockout,
  3. Give Imyres a 1-star review on Facebook Visit Imyres on Facebook,
  4. Write a letter-to-the-editor, click HERE for the Bozeman Chronicle’s submission form,
  5. Spread the Word on Twitter and Facebook, use the hashtag #StandWithThreeForks


(Ed. note: Andy Shirtliff is a candidate for the Montana Public Service Commission)


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