The Teamsters are very cost-efficient: Apparently only 1.7% of Teamsters' Union dues go to things other than collective bargaining -- i.e. political contributions and other political activities.
When a logging truck driver from Kalispell exercised his rights as a non-union member to pay reduced dues, his monthly dues were cut by a whopping 69 cents, from $39 to $38.31. In addition, he was forced to pay a $150 "objector fee."
We're no math whizzes around here, but by our calculations, that means that the poor guy would have to pay monthly union dues for 19 years before he broke even. Yes, that's right -- unless the guy drives truck for an outfit represented by the Teamsters for 20 years, he actually had his dues raised.
He was also told that if he didn't comply, the union would demand that he be fired. One hopes that the brakes on his logging truck don't have unexpected problems.
The ability to unionize is essential to the operation of a free economy, for reasons we have discussed on Montana Headlines before. Furthermore, it is only fair that non-union members be expected to pay their share for collective bargaining from which they benefit.
But workers should also have the right not to pay union dues that will go to political activities they object to.
And it should be pointed out that for the Teamsters' Union, this historically could just as easily have worked in the favor of Democrats, since that union endorsed Nixon, Reagan, and the first President Bush. (Their judgement has gotten poorer in recent years.)
The Montana Stockgrowers Association comes through: The deck had been getting stacked at the Board of Livestock with recent appointments, but once the Montana Stockgrowers and its members had a chance to weigh in, the Board backed off on its original proposal to divide Montana cattle producers through the so-called "split zone" strategy for dealing with brucellosis.
Montana's stockgrowers correctly stuck together, forcing the state to deal with the brucellosis problem head-on, rather than using a divide-and-conquer strategy that left cattle producers in areas around Yellowstone National Park to bear the brunt alone.
The Montana executive branch needs to be working to come up with solutions for how to deal with the reservoir of infection in the Park, which means taking on the feds and advocating for the Montana beef industry.
It is regrettable that the comments from the executive branch about this decision were so lacking in respect for Montana ranchers.
The governor blamed the lobbyist for the Stockgrowers, saying that he had misled the state's ranchers.
Are we to understand that the governor is implying that those country-bumpkin ranchers are just too stupid to be able to think for themselves and aren't bright enough to figure out whether a slick lobbyist is feeding them a line of, well, you know what?
Sounds like some folks in the executive branch need to get out more, and meet some real-life Montana ranchers.
We suspect that Gov. Roy Brown, in his recent journeys through rural Montana, is getting an earful about this subject. We also suspect that he would never have concocted a "split-zone" scheme to begin with, since he would likely have gotten the Stockgrowers Association input before deciding what to do.
Vote by mail: Vote by mail for all Montana elections is coming.
We've been learning of late that the only reason Republicans ask questions regarding potential for voter-fraud in any proposed voting measure is to suppress the vote and disenfranchise voters -- so it is best for Republicans not to discuss voter fraud aspects of vote-by-mail at all. We need just to trust that it will all be OK, and, truth to be told, it probably will be. So why rock the boat by asking questions?
There are other interesting conversations that have happened surrounding this issue, though. For instance, in a recent conversation with a Republican, we overheard it jokingly said that the price of a stamp was a poll tax. Given the price of gas these days, it was definitely a joke. The parties can hand out rolls of stamps with far less expense than driving voters to the polls the old-fashioned way.
The response was that we shouldn't say that too loudly, otherwise we would find proposals that the government pay for the postage, thus raising the cost of the election. No-one need have whispered, since exactly those proposals have been made in various Democratic corners since the most recent election day.
Interestingly, at least one Democrat -- a staffer for Sec. State candidate Linda McCulloch -- is now raising questions about the wisdom of mail-in ballots now that there are indications that that voter turn-out may actually be lower in Native American communities and other traditionally Democratic areas.
Another question that is more interesting is whether vote-by-mail is a ballot that is just as secret as is voting in person. One of the cornerstones of freedom in this country is the secrecy of one's ballot. It is pretty impossible for an individual ballot cast at a polling place (at least in the way it is done in Montana) to be linked to an individual person.
To link a ballot to an individual in mail-in voting would require a criminal act on the part of someone such as a postal worker or an election official, and/or a breakdown in strict procedures. But would it not be far more possible than with voting at polling places? We almost fear to ask the question in public, since behind the question there is probably a desire to disenfranchise someone lurking somewhere in our dark Republican heart. But there the question is, nonetheless.
Is wanting to have ballots secret just as bad as wanting to have them be valid and free of fraud? We'll find out soon enough.
All of the concerns about vote-by-mail need to be addressed. Thus the advice of Oregon's election administrator to take things slow (Oregon took 2 decades to work up gradually to all mail-in elections) is probably good advice.
Going on Safari: We are gratified to learn that the Safari Club International has weighed in on the question of removing the grizzly bear from the Endangered Species List.
Perhaps recent attacks on hunters by grizzly bears helped the Club make its case that the grizzly isn't terribly endangered right now. In any event, the courts have allowed them to participate in the case.
This group of lovers of the great outdoors is a good counter-balance to the lawsuits filed by conservation groups -- which so far have had the field to themselves when it comes to filing lawsuits relating to grizzlies.
The Safari Club is also a conservation group, of course -- you can't hunt game that doesn't exist, after all.
Let's hope that other hunting and sportsman organizations follow suit and help work to delist the decidedly unendangered species of grizzly and wolf.