The Trump Administration announced Friday that it will close the Anaconda Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center this August, ending a program that has served southwest Montana and the entire state since 1966. The response from our Congressional delegation makes it clear that, while Senator Tester is fighting for Montana jobs, Senator Daines and Congressman Gianforte have no heart when it comes to fighting for those who need help the most.
The Job Corps CC Centers enroll over 3,000 students in rural America each year and the decision to close them was met with harsh responses from members of Congress representing rural states across the country:
“This is a politically motivated attack that oddly enough, offends both Democrats and Republicans in Congress and in communities across the country,” union president Randy Erwin said in a statement. He called the decision “a coordinated attack on the most vulnerable populations in the country: Rural and urban low-income young people hoping to succeed in life.”
And the impact will be serious in Anaconda. Anaconda-Deer Lodge CEO Bill Evert explained the impact to the Montana Standard:
According to Everett, the Job Corps is also one of the biggest employers in Anaconda. And while a federal entity doesn’t pay taxes the way a private corporation does, it still means job losses for residents who pay property taxes.In addition to that impact, Everett said the county relies heavily on the young people who go through the job training program. The Job Corps youth helped dig Anaconda out of the heavy snow storm in February that overwhelmed the Smelter City.Everett said future projects, such as painting light poles and doing masonry work on the courthouse, will now be in jeopardy because the town of Anaconda likely won’t have the funds to pay for such work to be done without that help.
In short, the Job Corps program is exactly what Republicans pay lip service to when they pretend to care about the poor: a job training program that gives young people skills to succeed after high school, a pipeline to much-needed labor in the trades, and economic development for communities.
And Senator Tester leaped to the defense of the Anaconda program, promising to introduce legislation protecting the program and writing:
“Make no mistake, this decision will lead to an immediate loss of jobs in rural America and undermine economic development in communities like Anaconda moving forward,” Tester said.”The magnitude of this decision on a community like Anaconda and the people of Montana is hard to overstate. I urge you to reconsider this irresponsible decision and instead work to create jobs and provide services to the rural west.”
Daines and Gianforte, who reserve their passion for tax cuts for the 1%, offered this tepid take in a letter they likely crafted on their private jet flight home:
Later Friday, Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Greg Gianforte, both Republicans, sent a letter to Alexander Acosta, secretary of the Department of Labor, expressing appreciation for the “effort to better align CCC’s organizational structure with the DOL’s mission” while also urging him to “maintain Anaconda CCC’s operating status or provide suitable and equivalent alternatives for the students currently served by the Anaconda CCC.”
Such passion for the workers of Montana, such commitment to this program that’s so important to the people and economy of Anaconda.
When people ask me why Daines and Gianforte can’t really represent the people of Montana, it’s not that I believe wealthy people can’t represent others. It’s that wealthy people without empathy, without concern for the disadvantaged, without concern for those who just want the opportunity to succeed, can’t.
While Gianforte and Daines fight every day for millionaires to pay less than their fair share of taxes and prioritize subsidies for private jets over job programs for young people, Jon Tester has never forgotten what the Montanans I know and grew up with never will: that we owe it to everyone in our state to fight to just them a chance to succeed.
Daines and Gianforte will never understand that.