BILLINGS — Former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer told a gathering of union leaders Friday that he has not decided on a possible run for U.S. Senate in 2014, but indicated he would need their support if he does.

The two-term governor is considering a bid to replace fellow Democrat U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, who is stepping down after six terms.

Addressing the Montana AFL-CIO annual convention in Billings, Schweitzer said he has been receiving lots of calls from people urging him to run. He said it would be a family decision involving his wife, Nancy, and their three children.

"But if we decide to do this...we need to do it together," he said at the end of a wide-ranging speech that touched on his opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the high costs of health care, and the need for organized labor to stand up against corporate interests.

"If we don't stand together, they'll pick us off one by one," he said. "We've got dirty, dark money flowing around. The most powerful are getting their way. They have the money and they're going to spend that money."

Schweitzer was endorsed by the AFL-CIO during his last run, in 2008, when union leaders cited his support for worker health insurance and retirement benefits and a higher minimum wage. He was also endorsed by the labor group in 2004.

But the former governor in recent months found himself at odds with the United Steelworkers union over an attempt by Schweitzer and a New York hedge fund attempt to oust the board at Stillwater Mining, Co. for alleged mismanagement.

Stillwater's unionized mine workers backed the incumbent directors, and shareholders in a May 2 vote ended up splitting control by awarding four seats to Schweitzer and his allies and four to the incumbents.

Montana AFL-CIO executive secretary Al Ekblad declined to address the issue directly Friday, but made clear that Schweitzer's standing with organized labor remains secure.

"We support our friends," Ekblad said, later adding, "I don't think there's any question that you would put Brian Schweitzer on the list of friends of labor."

Representatives of the steelworkers' union said they had lined up behind the company's management and against Schweitzer's side because of worries that safety improvements and other changes made at the mine in recent years could have been lost under a new board. They said they had no quarrel with Schweitzer himself.

Scott McGinnis, president of the Steelworkers' local chapter at Stillwater, said he'll support Schweitzer if he runs.

Schweitzer told The Associated Press that he bears no hard feelings over the dispute.

"There's no friction at all. None whatsoever. Those folks that draw paychecks with Stillwater felt the obligation to stand with the people writing the checks. Now I'm one of the guys writing the checks," he said.

Schweitzer was among a parade of Montana elected officials — most of them Democrats — speaking at the annual three day gathering of the state labor federation, which boasts 44,000 members from more than 100 different labor organizations. Also speaking were U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, Gov. Steve Bullock, Secretary of State Linda McCulloch and Attorney General Tim Fox, a Republican.

State Auditor Monica Lindeen was scheduled to speak Saturday. Lindeen has said she, too, would consider running for Baucus' seat, but only if Schweitzer decides not to.

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(7) comments

walter12

Good, that this guy is showing his true colors. So he needs and wants union money, that tells all of us alot. Schweitzer is a Obama tool. He is a toadie for Obama, and as been since 2008. Today's unions have become more and more leftist and are now, just a play thing for the Dems.

idiot state

Rich. The "dirty dark money" of the other side. But the Big Labor Union Mobs are clean as a whistle! No dirty politics in ol' Montana. It's why that state's the poorest, with the lowest state GDP, the lowest per capita incomes in the region-and why Barrons ranks it 44th in the nation of "Best Run States." Backward and corrupt. Elect this guy and he'll do what he can to continue things on a downward spiral-only on a national level.

montanamuralist
montanamuralist

Hope he runs. He can articulate facts in a way that will make the right wing nut jobs cringe. If they want to be decieved by the 900% increase in executive salaries the last 10 years while workers salaries go down, so be it. Schweitzer can convince Montana voters of the truth despite all the "marxist, left wing, obama creature " talk and show Montanans with good sense ( most of us) that their way is greed and padding their pockets while the "right" way is sharing a little more of the wealth that help the elite get to where they are. Health care? I have yet to hear any of these conservative wing nuts in the Potter Party explain what they would do to help the average citizen better afford health care other than "cut my taxes"....not a thing that shares some plan that would help people WORK and afford health care.....other than support the businesses who do not offer health care. No, I hope Schweitzer runs and bring on any Potter Party opponent. With their dark money. Did no good against Tester and it won't help against Schweitzer because the truth is the truth no matter how the Beck, Limbaugh, Hucklebee crowd in this state tries to tell us otherwise.

Pistol

The reason the spread between management and labor wages have increased is because the labor jobs are overseas. The profits of companies have gone up thus management bonuses, and the stock market has reached 15000 plus. Most of which was because of President Clinton signing NAFTA and GATT. I agree with most of what you wrote but it wasn't right wing nut jobs that did it, unless you consider Clinton a right wing nut job.

Stillmike Miller

Did you really just spout that party cr ap?! Okay, I'll play that game. Schweitzer was there for 8 of those ten years that you say had a "900% increase in executive salaries the last 10 years while workers salaries go down", and Obama for 5 of them (how about those Solyndra executives?). You better remember Schweitzer ruled for those executive salaries when he allowed eminent domain for them to take our properties, the very same executive salaries he courts now that have unlimited PAC and SUPERPAC fundage. Your spewage about "marxist, left wing, obama creature" was preached and supported by Scheitzer during the last election, when Schweitzer spoke for him.

No matter whether it is Dem or Rep in charge, the little man (us) loses more and more. No matter who is charge, the debt gets higher. No matter who is charge, we lose more rights. No matter who is in charge, we pay more out of our pocket.

WAKE UP!

Desperado

Articulate Facts??? That dog don't hunt. All hat and no cattle.And all the rest of his cute little quips are how he articulates a message. If that's all you union goons require is a cute little saying, then he's your man. Yep, keep supporting all those wacko leftist enviro's and you'll continue to whine about jobs. I hope you all aren't that dumb.

Pistol

The sheep, union leadership, continue to be blind to the truth. They fall for the class war bleep from the most Democratic leaders. Note Schweitzer played the card. I was a life long Democrat until Bill Clinton signed away many middle class jobs with NAFTA and GATT. Note this week GM is taking there Cadillac operations to China. Where is the outrage from our president? Wake up the middle class has no party covering there backs. Unions need to find a candidate who has ideas to bring back jobs, not run on making people jealous of the wealthy. If the wealthy can make more money by investing in this country they will. Right now in order to make the most money it pays to invest overseas.

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