Montana isn’t so far from the men north of Richmond
Oliver Anthony’s hit song, “Rich Men North of Richmond,” has really hit a nerve with the public.
We stopped at Safeway for a few groceries after church this morning. I do not normally shop for groceries, so was shocked at the price increases. The cost of living keeps going up and wages and salaries are not keeping up. Throw gas and interest rates in the equation and people are feeling the squeeze.
The Aug. 4 Washington Post reported that July 2023 was one of the busiest months for strikes in the last 20 years. The settlement that the Teamsters Union got with UPS was an increase of $7.50 an hour during the next five years. In June average hourly wages in the United States increased to $33.58 an hour.
These wages are being paid by American employers that are struggling to absorb raw material cost increases as well. The likely outcome is going to be an increase in the number of strikes as the demand for wage increases hits the reality of employer financial health.
Thinking about the impact on Montana, I recall looking at the Helena Rail Yard when I drive to town. Our major exports are arrayed on long trains carrying petroleum products, coal and grain. Those industries pay higher wages and are critical to our economy. I think about those jobs and regret that we cannot expand these export industries. We have a couple of copper mine projects that have been seeking operating permits for years. We have opportunities to expand oil and gas production. We have a demand for scarce rare earth mineral extraction. We are going to need these industries to provide new higher paying jobs.
I know the opposition comes from those who have made environmental protection the priority. But surely we can require air and water protection that maintains a clean and healthy environment and still provides high-paying jobs. It will be a long time before we can exist without carbon based fuels and there are ways to capture that carbon to reduce global warming.
We need higher paying jobs and we are going to have to partially rely on our natural resource industries to create many of those jobs. Let’s recognize that and move ahead. We can do it the right way.