After six months of working without a contract, the employees of Yellowstone County have voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike. The county commissioners have been refusing to drop language permitting them to arbitrarily set wages for new hires above and beyond those of existing employees.

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A False Promise

The Yellowstone County Employees Union had believed that a contract could be finalized through mediation after they won an unfair labor practice against the county last fall. The ruling directed the county to bargain in good faith and drop their illegal practices. However, the county has refused to comply with the ruling and multiple rounds of mediation post-ruling have failed to produce a contract.

“At the time of our members’ choosing, we are now authorized to strike,” said Yellowstone County Employees President Katie Cosby. “We want nothing more than to keep doing important work for Yellowstone County’s residents, tax-payers, and voters. We’ve done that work for six months without a contract while county commissioners refuse to agree to language respecting our right to help retain and recruit needed staff.”

The President of the Montana Federation of Public Employees (MFPE), Amanda Curtis, also commented on the situation.

“The county commission’s refusal to bargain in good faith and stop their illegal hiring practices has led to this strike authorization,” she said. “MFPE members stand ready to back Yellowstone County employees for as long as it takes. If commissioners are worried about retaining their workers, as every smart manager in the state should be, then their illegal activity must stop now.”

A Major Situation Unfolding

The union has scheduled a mediation session for January 18th with the county. However, if that session doesn’t result in an agreement, the union intends to exercise its right to strike beginning January 23rd.

This strike would mean that courts may close and vehicle registration, title work, civil processing, and other necessary services will cease.

The Yellowstone County Employees Union is asking county residents to send messages to their commissioners in support of these workers and their continued service.

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