- Associated Press - Friday, June 24, 2016

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on Friday rallied Montana union members convening in Helena for their annual convention, vowing union support for Gov. Steve Bullock’s re-election and superintendent Denise Juneau’s bid for U.S. Congress.

During an address to the union faithful, Trumka urged members to stay vigilant against those seeking to weaken unions, adding that the federation would work to defeat anti-union office seekers in November’s elections and keep Montana from becoming a right-to-work state.

Trumka, who leads the country’s largest federation of trade unions, was especially critical of Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. Last week, the AFL-CIO endorsed Democrat Hillary Clinton for the White House. “Donald Trump is profoundly unfit to be president,” he told a receptive crowd.

“We’ll keep fighting, and we’ll keep marching, and we’ll keep building, and we’ll keep registering, and we’ll keep mobilizing and we’ll keep bringing people out to the polls to elect those who are going to stand with us,” he said.

The AFL-CIO recently joined other labor groups to form a new super PAC that could raise millions of dollars to aid pro-labor candidates. Unlike other political action committees run by labor groups, the new fundraising entity will be raising money from supporters not usually affiliated with unions. The group can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money, and is already targeting races in key states, including Wisconsin - where labor unions have suffered some of their worst defeats in recent years.

Trumka said the AFL-CIO will spearhead what he called the most “comprehensive and sophisticated” electoral effort yet by the labor movement.

“We’ll fight for Gov. Steve Bullock and pro-labor candidates up and down the ticket,” he said. But he could not immediately say how much money could pour into Montana races.

AFL-CIO officials in Montana endorsed Bullock earlier this year and had invited his opponent, Greg Gianforte to interview for their endorsement, but the Republican abruptly cancelled his appointment.

Gianforte said the AFL-CIO’s endorsements of Bullock and of Hillary Clinton for president are a “slap in the face” to coal workers, some of whom are union members.

National labor officials are particularly vested in Montana because of its long history of unionism and because it is the only state in the northern Rockies and upper Plains that is not a right-to-work state.

Trumka noted Gianforte’s relative silence on whether he would sign legislation that would prohibit unions from imposing so-called closed shops at workplaces.

“Greg’s been very clear - right to work will not be a priority in his administration,” Gianforte’s campaign spokesman, Aaron Flint, said in an email. “We’ve got to fight to hold on to both union and non-union jobs.”

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