Two-term Sen. Jon Tester, a long-time friend of Labor, is running for re-election and IBEW members are helping to get out the vote.

With only a few days before Election Day, the senate race in Big Sky Country is a toss-up between Democratic incumbent Jon Tester and Republican challenger and state auditor Matt Rosendale.

Kalispell, Mont., Local 768 Business Representative Ben Dawson met with Sen. Jon Tester during his re-election bid. Tester has received the endorsement of the state AFL-CIO and the Building Trades Council.

“Montana is home to some of the country’s oldest and strongest labor heritage. These working men and women are no strangers to the value of a union,” said IBEW International President Lonnie R. Stephenson. “Our members are joining with their brothers and sisters across the trades and doing everything they can to make sure Montana sends a true voice for working families to Washington.”

The AFL-CIO has endorsed Tester, citing his lifetime legislative record of 92 percent as well as his support of union members who were locked out of the Imerys plant in Three Forks, about 75 miles south of capital city Helena. Tester visited the picket line twice while Rosendale never did.

Tester also introduced a bill in response to the lockout that would make corporations unable to receive tax breaks, deductions or credits during lockouts. It’s called the Prohibiting Incentives for Corporations that Kickout Employees Tax Act, or the PICKET Act.

The AFL-CIO also noted Tester’s plan to create high-paying jobs and his hosting of blue-collar jobs roundtables to encourage high school graduates to learn skilled labor trades. The third-generation dirt farmer and former teacher also supports union apprenticeship programs and has worked with the state's community colleges to deliver vocational training.

Tester’s legislative record includes:

  • Voting against a tax bill that would make working people foot the bill for tax breaks for millionaires and big corporations.
  • Voting against confirming anti-labor nominees William Emanuel and Marvin Kaplan to the National Labor Relations Board.
  • Voting to protect the Affordable Care Act.
  • Voting against overturning an Obama-era Occupational Safety and Health Administration rule on keeping records of serious injuries for at least five years.
  • Voting against overturning an Obama-era rule to require companies bidding on federal contracts to disclose past violations of labor and employment laws.
  • Voting in favor of a rule to help private sector workers better save for retirement.

Tester voted against nominating Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, citing concerns over the judge’s record on privacy, health care and dark money in politics. As the IBEW has previously reported, the newest justice to the nation’s highest court also has a dangerous record for working families. Rosendale said he supported Kavanaugh’s nomination.

The two-term senator also voted against Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court, another anti-labor pick by President Trump. Gorsuch was widely considered to be the deciding vote in Janus v. AFSMCE, the case that overturned 40 years of established law and said that state and local government employees no longer have to pay fees to the unions that are required to represent them and negotiate on their behalf.

Eighth District Political Coordinator Rich Kingery says members from locals including Butte Local 44, Helena Local 206, Billings Local 532 and Kalispell Local 768 are participating in their area’s labor campaigns with the state’s AFL-CIO chapter, knocking on doors and phone banking. Members have also attended events around the state.

Tester also received the unanimous endorsement of the Montana Building Trades Council.

“Sen. Tester, your involvement in community meetings and hearing our concerns on our way of life as you walk with us in Montana shows that you care about the middle class and the less fortunate. I am proud that the Building Trades has a friend like you,” wrote Council President John Roeber in his endorsement announcement.

Rosendale’s commitment to Montana jobs is more uncertain, underlined by the fact that he failed to include a section on jobs or the economy on his campaign website. Regarding health care, the website states that Rosendale supports repealing the Affordable Care Act, a position in line with his vocal support for bare-bones health plans allowed to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions.

In response to a $40 million payment to Montana from the federal government, money that can be used to fund infrastructure projects like the construction of schools and roads, Rosendale called it “a welfare check.”

Rosendale also got in hot water for shady campaign financing. The Billings Gazette reported that he used $10,000 in donations earmarked for past campaign debt to instead boost his 2016 campaign for state auditor. Then, after taking office, he dropped a number of penalties against the donors' company.