Preserving our history, protecting our future

SB 338 passed during the 66th legislative session. The bill raises the state lodging tax from 3 to 4 percent. The additional revenue funds the Historical Society’s new heritage center, freeing hundreds of artifacts and other materials that have been locked away in a warehouse outside Helena. Additionally, this bill funds new grant programs for the preservation of already existing historical sites throughout the state.

No one questions the importance of maintaining our history. This is especially true in the labor movement. If we don’t tell our story, management tells it for us. The best example of this comes from Butte, Montana. The copper kings owned the newspapers and were able to turn public opinion against striking miners. Butte’s papers painted the largely immigrant workforce as rising up against American war efforts rather than unsafe working conditions. Thanks to carefully saved records that narrative has changed.

This past week, drivers for the ride-sharing apps Uber and Lyft took a stand after seeing Uber was seeking an IPO valued at $90 billion despite recently cutting drivers per mile pay by 25%. This was the first mass protest regarding working conditions for Rideshare drivers. It comes on the heels of workers in the ever-growing tech industry speaking out against workplace climate and expectations to log long hours.

The story will always remain the same, those at the top will do what they can to exploit workers in order to maximize profits and line their profits. When safety, healthcare, or wages stand in the way optimal cash flow they come under attack. But as we have seen in the past, ultimately we hold the upper hand.

Workers make profits possible. We run the machines that churn out products. We load and drive the trucks that deliver them to their destination. When workers walk off the job, the money goes with it. Taking action remains difficult though. Often times, short term needs cloud long term gains. We know that it won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. And when there appears to be no end in sight for the bad times, we can always look to Montana and remember that this too shall pass.  

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