HELENA - The two new top leaders of the Montana AFL-CIO have issued a joint statement calling for a united labor movement to push for common goals.
Releasing the statement were Jerry Driscoll, who at the labor federation's convention last weekend in Butte unseated Don Judge as executive secretary of the state AFL-CIO, and Jim McGarvey, who succeeded Driscoll as the AFL-CIO's new president. The executive secretary heads the AFL-CIO's 22-person staff around the state and has been labor's chief spokesman in Montana, while the president has not been a full-time job but presides over meetings in what has been a largely ceremonial post.
In their joint statement, Driscoll and McGarvey called on the labor movement to "cast a wide net to unite Montana working people to push for more union organizing, better worker protections, sensible economic development, higher wages and benefits and a secure economic future.
The two labor leaders expect to conduct an intensive outreach program to union leaders and members across Montana.
"We want union people in every Montana community to work together," McGarvey said. "And we're anxious that the state AFL-CIO be a catalyst for that to happen."
Driscoll predicted there would be "exciting times for the labor movement." He said McGarvey, the rest of the federation's executive board and he would travel around Montana to hear what's on the minds of working people.
"And they're going to be the ones where the solutions come from because working people are experts in what they do," Driscoll said. "They know how the jobs run, how the bills are paid and how to make things better."
Driscoll served as a state legislator from 1983 to 1993 and worked for and was later elected business manager for Laborers Local 98 from 1977 to 1992. He has lobbied for building trades unions and some businesses, including Montana Power Co., in recent legislative sessions.
McGarvey was a Butte sociology teacher from 1965 to 1971 before becoming head of the Montana Federation of Teachers, a post he's held since 1971. He was instrumental in merging the 5,000 members of the MFT with the 11,000-member Montana Education Association to form MEA-MFT, the largest union in the state. He was elected an international vice president of the American Federation of Teachers in 1974 and still holds that position.