- Associated Press - Sunday, January 21, 2018

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - Two unions representing Montana public employees decided to merge, a decision that organizers said will create the largest union in the state.

Delegates for the Montana Public Employees Association and the Montana Educators Association-Montana Federal of Teachers voted Saturday in favor of the merger. The Helena Independent Record reports that the combined organization will be called the Montana Federation of Public Employees.

Eric Feaver, president of the educators’ group, said the new organization will be Montana’s largest union, with an estimated membership of 24,000 or 25,000 employees. He said the total will give the union more authority to negotiate for its members.

“The impact won’t be immediately felt,” Feaver said, but added that “it will resonate with a wide range of state employees.”

The membership will include Montana Highway Patrol employees, police department employees, probation and parole officers, faculty members and teachers across the state.

The organizations now need to focus on administrative tasks, including deciding on dues and contacting members about the decision.

Quinton Nyman, executive director of the Montana Public Employees Association, said the merger will let the groups streamline their administrative activities.

“It’s a positive move for our members,” Nyman said. “We’ve operated side by side for decades . duplicating services for years.”

Unions work to protect members’ salaries and benefits and collectively bargain those and other terms. The estimated membership numbers also could increase the organizations’ political influence in discussing those topics.

“It’s going to be a good thing,” Feaver said.

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