Some local unions are looking for, or have found, new places to hold training and meetings with the demise of a decades-old spot they rented in Havre.
The Hill County government is holding an auction March 21 with the Havre Labor Hall up on the block. The tax deed auction is scheduled to start at 9 a.m. on the south steps of the Hill County Courthouse, with the property the only item scheduled to be sold.
The county seized the title of the building from the apparently defunct Havre Labor Temple Inc. for back taxes.
Dave Brewer, of the United Transportation Union, said it essentially was mismanagement that led to the tax default.
“It basically owned itself,” Brewer said, adding that, as people who had handled paying bills and taxes retired, moved away or died, the payments got lost in the shuffle.
The Hill County Clerk and Recorder’s Office reports the taxes on the building, across the street from Gary & Leo’s Fresh Foods on the corner of 8th Avenue and 2nd Street, went delinquent in 2009, with $211.38 in taxes due from 2008.
By the time the county took the title for the building last fall, another $937.37 was due, and to take the building out of delinquency as of October 2012 would have cost $1,396.60.
A first auction, held Feb. 21, with a starting bid of $22,000 on the property, drew no bids.
The starting bid set for the March 21 auction is $8,500.
Sara Thody, president of Local No. 8 of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union in Great Falls, said that union is looking for a new location in which to hold meetings of the Havre workers it represents.
Thody said UFCW paid an annual rental fee including last year, but the last time it used the hall — in August — the electricity and water had been turned off. The next time the union came to the hall, it was locked up, she said.
Brewer said local unions bought shares in the building, with a list of unions utilizing it over the years.
As many of the smaller unions disbanded or consolidated, fewer and fewer groups paid to use the hall, with UTU and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Brakemen among the last local unions using the hall.
UTU and BLE have found other locations in which to hold their meetings, Brewer said.
Al Ekblad, executive secretary of Montana AFL-CIO, said the loss of the building does not seem to be related to a weakening of labor itself in the community — Havre probably still has as a high or higher percentage of residents who are in unions than other smaller towns in the state.
Historically across the country, labor temples generally were formed with a group of unions coming together to build or rent a location to share for their work.
Havre Labor Temple Inc. first filed paperwork with the Montana Secretary of State in 1950, according to information from the Secretary of State’s website. The corporation’s status was dissolved in 2001 due to involuntary dissolution, commonly done because the corporation does not meet the deadline for filing required annual paperwork.
The Labor Temple purchased the building, which originally operated as Havre’s Central Market Grocery until the mid- ’50s, in 1970 from owners who listed an address in Illinois.
The Polk Directory listed the address as “vacant” from 1956-1958. It housed Radio Electronic Supply, Ray’s Upholstery and as the location for Montana Legal Services and the Hill County Community Action Organization until it was sold to Havre Labor Temple, Inc.
The building saw many local unions using it for meetings and training, with the Polk Directory in 1991 listing it as the Union Temple with Havre Labor Temple Inc. in the listing. Other listings in that entry including the International Brotherhood Electric Union, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the Painters Union, the Railway Conductors and Brakemen Union, the Railway Firemen and Oilers Union, the Railway Machinists Union, the Restaurant and Hotels Employee Union, the Retail Clerk Union and the Teamsters Union.
Timeline of the Havre Labor Temple
• 1931 — First listing of 740 2nd St. in Polk City Directory, as Havre Central Market Grocery.
• 1950 — Havre Labor Temple Inc. files registration paperwork with Montana Secretary of State.
• 1954 — Polk still lists as address for Central Market Grocery.
• 1956-1958 — Polk lists address as “vacant.”
• Through 1970, listings for address include Radio Electronic Supply, Ray’s Upholstery, Montana Legal Services, Hill County Community Action Organization.
• 1970 — Havre Labor Temple Inc. purchases building.
• 1971 — Polk lists address as Union Temple.
• 2001 — Secretary of State lists Havre Labor Temple Inc. as involuntarily dissolved, generally done due to lack of filing renewal paperwork.
• 2009 — Havre Labor Temple goes delinquent on Labor Hall taxes, $211.38 due for 2008.
• 2012 — Hill County takes title of building for $1,396.60 due in taxes and fees.
• February 21, 2013 — County puts building on the block for starting bid of $22,000, with no bids made.
• March 21, 2013 — Building is scheduled to go on county auction with starting bid of $8,500.