MEA-MFT COPE recommends Jon Tester



For Immediate Release: January 17, 2012

For More Information: Eric Feaver, MEA-MFT President, 442-4250


MEA-MFT COPE votes to recommend Tester for re-election

Jon Tester


Members of MEA-MFT’s political action committee (called MEA-MFT COPE) have voted unanimously to recommend Jon Tester for re-election to the U.S. Senate.


MEA-MFT represents more than 18,000 Montana k-12 teachers, school support staff, higher education faculty, county and state employees, Head Start educators, and health care workers.


MEA-MFT COPE members reviewed Tester’s voting record and his positions on issues, comparing them to his opponent, Congressman Dennis Rehberg.


“There’s no question that Jon Tester is the right candidate on our issues,” said Charlie Martin, a COPE member in Billings who works as a probation and parole officer.


“He’s right on education, right on public services, right on jobs, and right on the rights of working people to bargain collectively. He has a strong track record on all these issues.”


“Jon believes in public education,” said Kate McAuliffe, a COPE member and teacher in Billings. “He knows it’s the cornerstone of our democracy and economic development. He knows we need a highly educated workforce if we’re ever going to rebuild our economy. Plus, Jon’s a former teacher and school board member himself -- and a father and grandfather. He’s very aware of the unique issues in Montana schools. He has fought to replace the top-down No Child Left Behind law with a school improvement plan that works for Montana and rural America.”


COPE member Mary Verploegen, a professor at MSU-Northern in Havre, said Senator Tester has also worked to expand higher education opportunities, including vocational technical education. “He has worked hard to make college more affordable for Montana families,” she said.


Congressman Rehberg, on the other hand, has a record of voting against education, Verploegen said. 


“Dennis Rehberg has tried to cut Head Start and Pell Grants – two of the most successful education programs in the nation for helping students succeed in school and in life,” she said. “Last year he proposed major cuts to financial aid for college students, and then he called Pell Grants the ‘Welfare of the 21st Century.’ That’s so insulting to thousands of hard-working Montana families who have been able to afford college for their kids because of Pell Grants.”


In terms of public services, “Senator Tester gets it,” said COPE member Jill Cohenour of East Helena, a chemist for State of Montana. “He knows our families and main street businesses count on good roads, safe neighborhoods, clean air and water, and strong infrastructure. Public employees are the folks who provide these services. Jon respects the essential work public employees do.”


By contrast, Cohenour said, “Congressman Rehberg made national headlines when he sued Billings firefighters after they were called to put out a grassfire at his Billings subdivision. That says a lot about what he thinks of public servants.”


On the rights of workers, Mike Picking, a COPE member in Great Falls, said Senator Tester supports the rights of working people to form unions and bargain collectively over their working conditions, salaries, and benefits.


“That’s a bottom line issue for us,” Picking explained. “Some politicians in this nation have declared all-out war on collective bargaining rights. We’ve seen it in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, and many other states. Dennis Rehberg has given us no reason to believe he would stand up for collective bargaining rights, but we know Jon Tester will.”


Picking said Tester supports strengthening workforce training programs, has repeatedly voted to extend unemployment benefits for jobless Americans, and supported Wall Street reform.  “Dennis Rehberg voted exactly the opposite on all those issues,” Picking said.


On the issue of jobs, MEA-MFT President Feaver pointed to Tester’s Forest Jobs and Recreation Act, which MEA-MFT has endorsed. “That bill will put a lot of Montanans back to work in the woods and protect some our best hunting and fishing areas,” Feaver said. “Just a few weeks ago, Dennis Rehberg admitted to blocking a vote on that bill.”


Feaver also mentioned Tester’s "VOW to Hire Heroes Act," which provides job and training opportunities for veterans. The bill passed with unanimous support in Congress. “It’s the only jobs bill passed by this Congress,” Feaver said.


“It’s just one example of Jon’s work on behalf of veterans. As a combat veteran myself, I cannot be grateful enough for Senator Tester’s commitment to veterans’ health care.”


MEA-MFT’s candidate recommendation process is nonpartisan, Feaver explained. “It’s all about issues and track records.”


The 35 members of COPE are elected locally by their fellow MEA-MFT members. COPE members live and work in communities across Montana and represent all of MEA-MFT’s membership groups.


“COPE members do their homework,” Feaver said. “They spend hundreds of hours reviewing voting records and position statements and interviewing candidates. Then they vote on which candidates to recommend to the rest of our members.”


COPE members recommended Tester after reviewing his record and an intensive face-to-face interview, Feaver said. “Unfortunately, Denny Rehberg failed to sit for an interview and ignored our written questionnaire.”


MEA-MFT Committee On Political Education (COPE) members live in or near the following Montana towns: Anaconda, Billings, Butte, Bozeman, Deer Lodge, East Helena, Great Falls, Hamilton, Hardin, Havre, Helena, Kalispell, Laurel, Lewistown, Miles City, Missoula, Polson, Poplar, St. Ignatius, Shelby, Stevensville, and Whitefish.


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