GUEST POST: Raise a glass and wages this Labor Day

by Mary Ann Dunwell


“Salt of the Earth,” a 60s song by the Rolling Stones comes to mind as we near Labor Day. “Raise your glass to the hard working people,” “spare a thought for his back breaking work,” and “let’s drink to the salt of the earth.” These lyrics resonate today. Our state enjoys robust economic growth and full employment worth celebrating, but many hard working Montanans are not sharing in the economic prosperity that their hard work builds. Montana ranks in the 40s among other states for its low pay and low wage jobs. Many Montanans still live paycheck to paycheck and struggle to make ends meet.

Let’s raise a glass to them this Labor Day that someday soon they’ll take home a living wage. That means enough to afford basic necessities and maybe even a little to put aside for that unforeseen, often inevitable emergency. In Montana that’s $14.40 for a single person and it goes up for families. For July, Montana’s unemployment rate was 4 percent, below the national rate of 5.3 percent. One state economist says Montana could have mere 1 percent unemployment in 10 years. Supply and demand may force higher wages eventually. But why wait a decade for folks to earn a living wage and make a life.

According to the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at UM, wages in health care, retail and construction are some of the fastest growing. Wage growth is slowest among teachers who shape young minds and public servants who provide essential human services. Although wages in health care are growing, the pay for some health workers lags around $10 an hour. These are workers who care for the most vulnerable among us – children and adults with mental illness and developmental disabilities or people who are aging and cannot care for themselves. Most states face a gender wage gap and Montana is again near the bottom of the pile. A woman working full time in Montana earns 75 cents on the dollar that a man working full time takes home, compared with 78 cents for women nationally.

When jobs in Montana pay at least a living wage with equal pay for equal work, good benefits, paid sick and family leave, non-discrimination, safe and healthy work conditions, the ability to form and join unions, that’ll be a happy Labor Day. When we support Main Streets by assuring that corporations pay their fair share in taxes, just like small businesses and the rest of us do, this will honor workers every day, not just once a year on Labor Day. So this year, as we hum “Salt of the Earth” and raise our glass to the hard working people, let’s also raise wages and quality of life for all Montanans. Happy Labor Day!


Mary Ann Dunwell is state representative for Montana House District 84, Helena/East Helena. During the legislative interim, she serves on the state’s Economic Development Advisory Council and the Montana Developmental Center Transition Council. You can reach her at (406) 461-5358 or


35 Comments on "GUEST POST: Raise a glass and wages this Labor Day"

  1. Old Line Democrat | August 28, 2015 1:14 PM at 1:14 PM |

    Wait a minute, where has Ms. Dunwell been all of her life. Montanans currently have the right to form and join unions. We have been lucky so far that the Koch funded tea partiers have not prevailed in their attempts to make Montana a “right to work” (for less) state.

    Montana has been in forefront of the union movement since the early part of the last century many a member of the Butte Mine Workers and Anaconda Steelworkers risked everything for the union movement and prevailed for many years until non-union workers became complacent and satisfied with the work done by those union members.

    Enjoy your weekend, your 40 hour work week, workers compensation, sick leave, vacation days, insurance benefits, safety standards, retirement plan, a minimum wage? Thank the unions.

    Too many of us took these benefits for granted and many have been conned into giving up defined benefit retirement plans, solid health insurance and good middle-class incomes for pie in the sky IRA’s and no insurance and gig-economy wages.

    Yeah, you can make a few extra bucks driving other folks in your own car for Uber to make ends meet, what a life. Who’s extolling the virtues of the new “gig economy’?

    So, rather than “raising a glass” as Ms. Dunwell suggests, how about supporting your local unions, working against politicians who want to take every benefit away from the working people to give greater bonuses to CEO’s of money losing businesses and fighting against tax subsidies for profit making corporations. It has been done in the past and can be done again, if we band together.

    • I’m not certain where the passive aggressive animosity towards Rep. Dunwell comes from. She wasn’t saying that Montanan’s don’t have the right to unionize. What is lacking is the political will of workers to form them and the political support from our elected representatives for their formation, just as you indicate, OLD. You list common benefits and say “Thank the unions.” She’s saying the same thing, while pointing out that far too many of Montana’s working people don’t get those benefits, union or not.

      Maybe it’s just me, but I’m not seeing any opposition between union ideals and fighting for a living wage for all workers. Seems those should walk hand in hand, right?

    • House of Ill Re-Butte | August 29, 2015 4:36 PM at 4:36 PM |

      Old Line Democrat, it would be a beautiful thing if, as you seem to believe, Montana had a 40-hour work week, sick leave, vacation days, insurance or retirement benefits for workers. It doesn’t. Montana employers can legally require 20-hour (or more) work days, seven days a week without a single minute off for lunch or breaks.

  2. How about supporting Unions of choice,
    and raising a glass!

  3. It would help if Rep. Dunwell elaborates on what she means by “the ability to form and join unions.” Old Line not unreasonably interprets “the ability” as meaning the right. Rob not unreasonably interprets “the ability” as meaning a sterile organizing environment. Dunwell’s term is ambiguous, so both Old Line’s and Rob’s interpretations are valid, although I suspect Rob’s probably best captures her intent.

  4. Raise a glass to welfare. About $27K a year in this state.

    • Can you name two Montanans that receive “About $27K a year” in Welfare?

      The fact is that if you earn $50K a year you pay less than $60 (total) in taxes to support programs like food stamps and Medicare….but at the same time you pay $6,000 in subsidies to big business as “Corporate Welfare”….are you sure you are mad at the right people?

      Proverbs 22:16 “One who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth and one who gives gifts to the rich – both come to poverty.” …Big Swede, we all know what type of person you are now…

      • Gov. Bullock and Sen. Tester?

        “10-13Don’t you remember the rule we had when we lived with you? “If you don’t work, you don’t eat.” And now we’re getting reports that a bunch of lazy good-for-nothings are taking advantage of you. This must not be tolerated. We command them to get to work immediately—no excuses, no arguments—and earn their own keep. Friends, don’t slack off in doing your duty”.- 2nd Thessalonians, verse 10-13.

        • AH Swede is that the fringe conservative translation???? just saying because most pastors I know as friends talk about it as moral work…. you know like being kind to each other and helping the poor. Doing the work Jesus did.

          So in reality isn’t he speaking to your Kind Swede? YOu know the kind that doesn’t protect women? or Children, Or Immigrants. or strangers like jesus did.

          Jus saying everything about 2nd Thessalonians has to do what jesus did as work. not you

  5. Drunks for Denny | August 28, 2015 9:00 PM at 9:00 PM |

    Psssh….Anyone who quotes my favorite Rolling Stones song has my vote.

  6. Old Line Democrat | August 28, 2015 9:03 PM at 9:03 PM |

    I am certainly not being passive-aggressive towards Ms. Dunwell.

    I am responding to this statement in the first line of her last sentence:
    “When jobs in Montana pay at least a living wage with equal pay for equal work, good benefits, paid sick and family leave, non-discrimination, safe and healthy work conditions, the ability to form and join unions, that’ll be a happy Labor Day.”
    In this sentence, she is lumping the ability to form and join unions into her “wish list” for a happy Labor Day. She simply blew it or doesn’t understand the past and present of the union movement. One would think that a state representative commenting on Labor Day would understand the basics of unions in Montana.

    • What the devil is going on?
      Guest Post uses the word “union” how many times?
      Guest clearly in support of working people.
      But most comments forget that and try and
      force the “union” subject to center stage.
      What selfish nonsense!

      I too am still wondering where the
      passive aggresive ill will might originate!
      Let’s comment LATER about unions.
      Gosh they sure have changed a lot, but LATER.

      I say it’s time for Comments relating
      to the body and spirit of the Guest Post.

      Please do share some responses.
      Reflections from your part/place in Montana.


      Please take back this space!

      • Drunks for Denny | August 29, 2015 9:38 PM at 9:38 PM |

        As you wish, Bob.

        Let’s drink to the hard working people
        Let’s drink to the lowly of birth
        Raise your glass to the good and the evil
        Let’s drink to the salt of the earth

        Say a prayer for the common foot soldier
        Spare a thought for his back breaking work
        Say a prayer for his wife and his children
        Who burn the fires and who still till the earth

        And when I search a faceless crowd
        A swirling mass of gray and
        Black and white
        They don’t look real to me
        In fact, they look so strange

        Raise your glass to the hard working people
        Let’s drink to the uncounted heads
        Let’s think of the wavering millions
        Who need leaders but get gamblers instead

        Spare a thought for the stay-at-home voter
        His empty eyes gaze at strange beauty shows
        And a parade of the gray suited grafters
        A choice of cancer or polio

        And when I look in the faceless crowd
        A swirling mass of grays and
        Black and white
        They don’t look real to me
        Or don’t they look so strange

        Let’s drink to the hard working people
        Let’s think of the lowly of birth
        Spare a thought for the rag taggy people
        Let’s drink to the salt of the earth

        Let’s drink to the hard working people
        Let’s drink to the salt of the earth
        Let’s drink to the two thousand million
        Let’s think of the humble of birth

        • Took awhile before I got into your above eight stanza
          work of art.
          Several times and again this morning,
          it really works for me!
          For example, for a decade now I’ve been living with
          evidence that the beatitudes do not begin with such as: ‘Blessed are those who . . .’

          Nope, what may have happened was end times believers
          put their own meaning, into the words of Jesus,
          who more likely said: “In rags are the people who . . . ”

          Reading works of John Dominic Crossan has helped me see
          back into history. His books are quite a pleasure to read!

          He stands on shoulders of another Bible scholar of Catholic persuasion,
          J. R. R. Tolkien.

          Both of them wrote as scholars, also as language artists.

          That’s why I ask you to share
          some background for your above
          eight stanza piece of art that smarts me!

          Sure it hurts to read all the stanzas together,
          but all the more reason for the experience.

          Glad I can experience the art of Mary Ann Dunwell
          ALSO your Comment!

          Sincerely, geezer Bob

  7. Cut tax burdens and expenses and we’ll have living wages.

  8. As usual, when a citation is made to a conservative website, as Big Swede did in support of his theory that being on welfare is about the same as earning $27,000, it is really difficult to find what the real story is. The Swede’s citation actually cites one blog, which cites another blog which then simply refers to someone who made some calculations on something called the Cleveland current. The most misleading calculation is to arbitrarily assign to the poor a benefit of $16,500 for receiving Medicaid. Yet, the author acknowledges that even without ACA subsidies (to which a family earning $27,000 would certainly be entitled) the “non-welfare” family would pay $14,000 in health insurance. Actually, the “non-welfare family would essentially pay nothing for its insurance.

    And, as we know in Montana, the working poor don’t even get Medicaid. In fact, in Montana, an able bodied person over 18 with no kids can’t get Medicaid. So, a person making that sweet $11 grand a year doesn’t get that $16,500 jolt the conservatives like to impute to him. Swede, you can check out eligibility here:

    The Emerich paper also assigns a $4350 benefit for receiving food stamps (SNAP). To be eligible, a 3 person family cannot have income over $25,000 AND must not have assets worth over $2250. But, the family must use 30% of its income for food. the average SNAP benefit is only $256 a month per household or about $3000 per year, not the $4350 calculated by Emerich. An adult, with no dependents, can only receive food stamps for a maximum of 3 months. Pretty tough to make a living that way.

    frankly, I don’t have the time to correct the other errors inn the calculations cited by Swede. You get the point, though. If there is one thing you can count on, it is whenever you see a post citing a right wing blog, the information is wrong, and purposely wrong. It is false so it can convince those who want to be easily convinced. So, are the lazy poor getting a sweet free ride on the backs of the hard working middle class? No, no they aren’t. Only the purposely ignorant would believe that they are.

    Why do people make up numbers to deceive the middle class into believing that tthe poor are taking money from them? So that the purposely ignorant will feel jealous and then vote against their own economic interests. Its been working since Reagan railed against the fictional Cadillac driving welfare mom and the big black bucks laying around all day waiting for their big welfare checks. And while the bigots had their eyes averted, the one percent told the rubes they would trickle down on them and all their dreams would come true.

    And the middle class has been screwed for the last 40 years, but not by the poor.

  9. I can tell Rep Mary Ann Dunwell, meant no harm in this post. and you guys are picking it apart because your Opinion isn’t the same as her’s?????

    Taken in its totality, it means something quite simple, more like, and Irish toast of good wishes.

    “Raise A Glass And Wages This Labor Day”

  10. Old Line Democrat | August 30, 2015 6:45 AM at 6:45 AM |

    House of Ill-ReButte,

    The point of my initial post was that (1) Ms. Dunwell apparently didn’t understand that Montana has a rich history of union activity and (2)that the union movement created standards for employment that served us all well for many years. I then went on to present some examples of those gains which have been lost over the years as a result of the complacency of the majority and the relentless attacks of the right wing.
    The point is that the road to those items Ms. Dunwell pines for can be through the union movement, which apparently both you and Ms. Dunwell don’t appreciate.

    • Um so your gonna make up a story about Ms Dunwell and myself??? Not that you know anything of me trying to organize Unions for racetracks in 2004 on the west coast? Or that I went to washington DC in 2011 with my Union, to help strengthen the Occupy Movement we were so a part of….

      The fact that you know nothing about me or the Unions I have belonged too… proves you know nothing of Unions yourself. I was even in the news here for going to Washington DC as a union Member.

      I am not sorry for anything I have done to make a workers rights worth something…. what can you point to?

      You never bash people who would help labor. yet here you are Gloating like you’re the only one who knows Union? Sorry to say but you’re pretty ignorant of what I have done for Unions and what I plan to work on as a Card carrying Union Worker in the future.

  11. Re-Butte, it’s time to re-boot.

    “When jobs in Montana pay at least a living wage with equal pay for equal work, good benefits, paid sick and family leave, non-discrimination, safe and healthy work conditions, the ability to form and join unions, that’ll be a happy Labor Day. When we support Main Streets by assuring that corporations pay their fair share in taxes, just like small businesses and the rest of us do, this will honor workers every day, not just once a year on Labor Day. So this year, as we hum “Salt of the Earth” and raise our glass to the hard working people, let’s also raise wages and quality of life for all Montanans. Happy Labor Day!”

    That’s the concluding pararaph by Mary Ann Dunwell.

    Her Toast is not yours to roast.
    You say she “pines.”
    Hmm. Sounds more like you pine
    to express your own views of Montana Unions.
    Have you not yet considered
    offering a Guest Post here or elsewhere?
    Have you not yet decided to offer
    an apology for your standing up to protest
    a toast composed in Guest Post?

    I was damn glad to raise a glass,
    while listening to Mary Ann’s toast.

    Shared it with friends and we raised
    another glass last night.

    Slowly read again the Guest Post toast,
    and lifted up my coffee cup at 4 AM,
    after helping move three horses off of the asphalt road.

    • House of Ill Re-Butte | August 30, 2015 9:26 AM at 9:26 AM |

      Bob Williams, you seem to have me confused with someone else. I did not write what you’re quoting me as saying.

      • I apologize. Wasn’t quite confusion!
        Was long night.
        Old Line Democrat, will you please read my Comment about your Comment
        to House of Ill Re-Butte.

        Lots of Anon names here on Cowgirl!
        Maybe too much of a good thing!

  12. Hey Swede, fact is most families that receive food stamps work full time. Hence the need to raise minimum wage and separate health care from employment. Food Stamps benefit WalMart/MacDonald’s etc more than it does the employees.

  13. Heck. If MT increases min wage, I for one will definitely buy 3 pizzas a week and donate them to the local food bank. Even at $30 a piece. Especially if they contain an unhealthy amount of fat and “salt”.
    California: $15 Minimum Wage, $30 Per Pizza, Massive Fail

    • tvfmontana,
      There’s an unhealthy amount of lip-id’s,
      and salt in your above contrary comment.
      Mary Ann says raise a glass and wages this Labor Day!
      Mary Ann offers a bit of history and
      a bit of an Irish ode.

    • Obviously tvfmontana you dont know Californians? They are healthier than Montanans. just a fact most people who live in cities walk and run to the bus, to their jobs.,,20653976_23,00.html Montana is 29 in health california is 22. the healthier states are blue by the way. with the entire south plus a lot of red states at the bottom of the list.

      Kinda hard to tote an AK across a field when your old fat and smoke alot

      Secondly its my guess you would be willing to kill to keep what isn’t being taken from you by taxes…. HOw christian is that I wonder?? Nobody is taking from you. Average income tax rates for these typical middle class families have been lower during the Bush and Obama Administrations than at any time since the 1950s.

      So the lie you keep telling each other as conservatives…. is just that– a complete lie.

  14. In addition to raising a toast, let’s also work to end the undue influence of money in politics, which favors the rich and works against the interests of working people.

    Here are two initiatives aimed at changing the money-buys-results political system that I think are worth looking at:

    1) The “Referendum President.”

    Lawrence Lessig is floating the idea of running for President (as a Democrat) with only one thing on his platform of what he would accomplish: to pass a bill that gives everyone equal access to voting and equal representation. The bill would include reforming campaign finance, ending gerrymandering, having elections on a national holiday, and a few other things. He says that if he can raise a million dollars by Labor Day, then he’ll run. He’s currently at about $680,000. More info at:

    2) A congress committed to reform.

    The MAYDAY PAC is working to elect representatives in congress who support changing the way campaigns are financed. They’ve identified Rep. Ryan Zinke as someone who doesn’t currently support reform, but might with enough insistence from his constituents.
    More info at:

    • The NLRB and the FED are kind of cooperatively destructive.
      Early on, Central Planners formalized bogus ‘sweetheart unions’,
      and limited the jurisdiction of a Union.
      Central media campaigned against Unions.
      We still need much better democratic worker organization.
      Businesses become more and more organized!
      For workers who want to organize, do they NOT have such right!

      If Pope Francis urged Ccongress to support democratic worker organizations,
      would the Republicans protest by a sit down, stand down.
      Like they did in opposition to what Pope Francis was saying,
      about the issue of capital punishment?

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