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MT Public Employees Celebrate High Court Victory at Conference

Teachers are among the members of Montana's largest union, MEA-MFT, gathering today for its annual Representative Assembly in Helena. (szepy/iStockphoto)
Teachers are among the members of Montana's largest union, MEA-MFT, gathering today for its annual Representative Assembly in Helena. (szepy/iStockphoto)
April 1, 2016

HELENA, Mont. - Fresh off a victory at the U.S. Supreme Court, Montana's biggest union holds its annual two-day Representative Assembly today and Saturday in Helena.

About 400 delegates representing MEA-MFT's 18,000 members will plan for the coming year and celebrate the high court decision that stopped an effort to weaken public employee unions. Cara Lokken-Frandsen, a sixth-grade math teacher from Sidney, said the conference is a great place to network with the union's incredibly diverse membership.

"When you get to the MEA-MFT 'Rep' Assembly, it isn't about Republican and Democrat," she said. "It's about what is good for all public employees - like teachers, nurses, correctional officers, Head Start, state employees of all kinds, all the way to paraprofessionals."

Organized labor membership as a whole has been declining over the past few decades, but public employee unions are bucking that trend.

Tom Fulton, a Montana state probation and parole officer in Miles City, said he believes being in a union helps public employees serve all Montanans better.

"It gives us a say in the process, so that we can have a good work environment," he said. "I think it's important that communities know that we're out there doing these jobs that are at times dangerous and thankless. But we're doing it because we're trying to make our communities safe."

Attendees at the conference will hear from several candidates for public office, including Gov. Steve Bullock, congressional candidate Denise Juneau, and from Melissa Romano, a math teacher who is running for Juneau's current job - superintendent of public instruction.

More information on the conference is online at mea-mft.org.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - MT