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Al Ekblad, state AFL-CIO
Al Ekblad, state AFL-CIO

This week, an important anniversary will pass that means a lot to many Montanans. It also offers some important insight into the people who will be asking for our vote in the upcoming election for Montana's U.S. Senate seat.

Four years ago this week, Congress passed the Fair Minimum Wage Act, which boosted the federal minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 per hour ($7.35 per hour in Montana). This boost ended the longest gap between wage increases in American history.

In Montana, we don't have huge, multi-billion dollar industries to support job creation. We don't have Wall Street banks or Silicon Valley. What we do have are a lot of innovative main street merchants, a lot of hard-working people who know what it means to put in a long day's work, and a lot of working families who juggle priorities each paycheck to make ends meet.

Progress in wages and working conditions are especially important for Montana workers and main street merchants. So it is especially important that we have leaders representing our state who understand the people of Montana; our concerns, experiences, and values.

For the better part of a century, the minimum wage has provided a baseline income for workers and protection against exploitation. This wage standard along with others like it, have provided a foundation for middle class families. For thousands of families, the wage increase of 2007 translated to a pay increase of more than $4,000 every year.

Now, two members of our congressional delegation will go head to head in the race to be Montana's next U.S. Senator and they are clearly on opposite sides of the wage debate.

Over the past four years, one of these men - Senator Jon Tester - fought for Montana workers including firm and vocal support for the minimum wage increase.

The other - Representative Dennis Rehberg - voted against the minimum wage increase but never failed to vote in favor of wage increases for himself as a member of Congress.

Dennis Rehberg, a millionaire so wealthy he is one of the richest members of Congress, voted and passed five wage increases for himself during the same ten year period that he refused to support wage increases for the people of Montana.

In fact, Rep. Rehberg didn't even know what the minimum wage rate was when asked recently. Dennis Rehberg is more comfortable in a corporate boardroom than in a room of workers. He's a Washington DC insider who has always deferred to the whims of his national political party.

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While Senator Tester stood up for working families, Congressman Rehberg said he would only vote to increase the minimum wage if it included a rider to eliminate taxes on the richest Americans, like himself.

In November of 2012, Montanans have a clear choice in the race for U.S. Senate. Jon Tester is a farmer and hard-working man who has repeatedly demonstrated his commitment to Montana's working families.

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He is a man of integrity who has a genuine sense of purpose. He is a small business owner who has been a champion for the people of Montana.

The clear choice for the people that care about Montana is Senator Jon Tester.

Al Ekblad,

Executive Secretary

Montana State AFL-CIO

Helena

 

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