New Hires Paid More? YC Courthouse Employees Picket in Billings
Today, on my travels through downtown, I came across a group at the courthouse lawn picketing. After stopping and having a chat with them, it turns out they are employees at the Yellowstone County Courthouse.
Why are they picketing?
According to the group, employees for the Yellowstone County Courthouse are unionized and have been negotiating their contract since June 30th, when it expired. The employees have learned that the new hires at the Yellowstone County Courthouse are being paid more than existing employees, even though these new hires have essentially zero experience.
The existing employees, and their union, feel this is unfair treatment and violates the (now expired) union contract.
What are they doing about it?
Approximately 130 employees for the Yellowstone County Courthouse are represented by the Montana Federation of Public Employees, who have engaged in contract negotiations with the county since June 2022. According to MFPE, the county has "reluctantly agreed to meet them at the table".
The relations between MFPE and Yellowstone County became strained in January 2022, when County Commissioners authorized management to hire new employees at rates above those of existing and long-term county employees, which is a violation of their "collective bargaining agreement"
Since this time, several unfair labor practices have been filed and their outcome is yet to be determined by the Board of Personnel Appeals.
What services do the county employees provide in our area?
According to MFPE, employees serve our community by providing title work, vehicle registration, courthouse treasury, court, county attorney duties, sheriff's office duties, and elections.
MFPE President Amanda Curtis had this to say:
Our county employees work hard for their community and deal directly with the public every day. Their work is valued by their neighbors and community members and that should be reflected in their wages and by fairly compensating everyone–not just the new hires. We are hopeful that mediation will be successful, but if it isn’t, then those workers are prepared to stand up for themselves and their families.
If you want to show your support, Wednesday October 19th at 5PM on the Courthouse Lawn, MFPE will be picketing once again. Honk, Wave, write an email to your county commissioners (their email addresses are provided below) to support your local county employees.
This article will be updated if the commissioners reach out.
(Full transparency: I have not reached out to YC Commissioners, or Yellowstone County, for comment)