Montana Fire Fighters win in tough political territory

March 13 • 2023

Montana Professional Fire Fighters (MPFF) successfully defeated more than 120 attempts to pass legislation aimed at stripping away labor rights, including bills that would have established right to work, eliminated dues deduction, and reduced pension benefits. And, despite a less than favorable political climate, the MPFF successfully lobbied to add prostate and cervical cancer to their presumption law. 

“The state government is the most conservative it has been in a long time, which is a difficult environment for labor. But our Montana sisters and brothers have really stepped up to the plate and made the changes they needed to make to be effective,” said 7th District Vice President Ricky Walsh. “I am very proud of President Richards and his team for their hard work.” 

The Republican Party had majorities in the state house and senate when Republican Governor Greg Gianforte was elected in 2021, giving the party a supermajority.

“With a new governor and new faces in the state legislature, there was a lot of concern this supermajority would lead to attacks on labor and the issues important to us,” said MPFF President George Richards. “We knew we were going to need more boots on the ground if we were going to successfully protect the interests of our members.” 

The MPFF had already followed the IAFF political action blueprint by building relationships with state legislators and supporting those who supported them. But Montana members needed to make inroads with the new members of the legislature. 

With that in mind, the MPFF recruited additional fire fighter lobbyists, representing a balanced mix of left and right-leaning political views, to garner support from both sides of the aisle. 

While the new strategy has not stopped lawmakers from trying to move anti-labor legislation, it has prevented unfavorable bills from becoming law.  

“Thanks to the relationships our fire fighter lobbyists created, we were able to stop the bad bills while they were still in committee. Three did make it out of committee, but we were able to defeat those too,” said Richards.