3rd Time's A Charm

IN THIS EDITION

  • Maine Med Nurse Celebrates Union Victory After Voting in Three Elections Since 1976
  • Union Members from 3 Unions Working on NECEC Project; Maine AFL-CIO Endorses
  • Maine AFL-CIO Endorses Tribal Sovereignty Bill
  • Congressman Jared Golden Pushes to Lower Medicare Age to 60
  • AFL-CIO Northeast District Meeting — Thursday, June 10
  • Labor Reading Group to Read “A Collective Bargain: Unions, Organizing, and the Fight for Democracy”
  • New Report Finds 20 Maine Workers Were Killed on the Job in 2019

Maine Med Nurse Celebrates Union Victory After Voting in Three Elections Since 1976

A meeting notice from the 1976 Maine Med Nurses' union campaign. Courtesy of Mike Cavanaugh.


Mary Foley of Portland, a registered nurse at Maine Medical Center, had been through two unsuccessful union elections at the hospital, first in 1976 and again in 2000, when she learned that nurses were once again organizing. Now officially retired but working per diem at the hospital, Foley says she had always been staunchly pro-union throughout her nearly 50 years working in health care. As the daughter of a Teamster and the wife of a postal employee, she knew first-hand the benefits of belonging to a union. 

She had also been subjected to a few bitter anti-union campaigns, so she knew what to expect and wasn’t intimidated when she was brought into a captive meeting with anti-union consultants.

“I’ve always felt that without unions there would be no middle class. Workers had to stand up and revolt to get fair wages and better working conditions,” Foley said. “So I said at that meeting, ‘I’m voting for the union because I believe that unions sustain the middle class.' The consultant didn’t even try to debate me. She just replied, ‘Well then vote for the union.’”

And she did. Foley said she was elated when she learned of the nurses' victory and believes that having the broader community nurses them really influenced them to vote yes.

“I was so impressed with how much support and positivity we got from the community,” she said. “I’ve read the Portland Press Herald for every day of my life and I had never read any letters to the editor supporting us. I don’t even think people in the community knew much about our last two union drives. But this time they were saying ‘nurses should have a voice at the table.’ That really stuck with us and made such a difference. I hadn’t heard that before.”

Now that the Maine Med Nurses are working on their first contract, Foley says she wants to focus on safer patient-staff ratios, better scheduling, pay scales and more. But she also hopes that other workers will follow the nurses' lead.

“There are many people in that hospital who work very hard, like the CNAs and the technicians, but have very low wages,” she said. “I don’t know if they’ll ever unionize, but I would definitely get behind any workers who want to form unions because it not only improves their pay and benefits, but it also gives them a voice on the job.”

Union Members from 3 Unions Working on NECEC Project; Maine AFL-CIO Endorses

The Maine AFL-CIO executive board has voted to endorse the $950 million New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC) project, which will create 1,600 construction jobs to build a 145-mile transmission line to bring 1,200 megawatts of renewable hydropower from Quebec to the New England energy grid in Lewiston. Currently, members of IBEW 104, LIUNA 327 and Operating Engineers 4 are already working on the project doing tree clearing, right-of-way building, specialty pole foundations and matting and installing environmental protections and controls. IBEW 104 members will begin constructing the line later this month. Other IBEW locals also will likely gain work from the project.

“Building electrical infrastructure is what we do and we are proud to be working on the NECEC project to help reach the renewable energy goals recently set by our President and the Governor,”  said Tim Burgess, Assistant Business Manager of IBEW 104. “Many of our members often find themselves traveling to other states in New England, or even further to other regions of the country to work on these types of infrastructure projects, which enhance the stability and reliability of our nation’s electric grid. The construction of the NECEC  is a welcomed opportunity for our members to showcase their construction skills right here at home."

NECEC is giving preference to Mainers to fill all positions on the project, including a mix of union and non-union labor, paying an average salary of $38 per hour and other benefits, according to the developers. 

“Our longtime members have leapt at the opportunity to work on this groundbreaking project and it has also served as an entryway for new members to join the union and set out on a pathway to a middle class career with good benefits for themselves and their families, said Lewis Overlock, Business Manager of LIUNA 327. We couldn’t be more proud to partner with our brothers and sisters in IBEW and IUOE to help make this clean energy jobs project a reality.”

Over 70 percent of the IBEW 104’s available work hours are dedicated to the project, which will need to employ line workers, apprentices seeking on-the-job-training, equipment operators, ground workers, heavy equipment operators and ground cutters. Apply here for more information!

Maine AFL-CIO Endorses Bill to Provide Tribal Sovereignty to Maine's Indigenous Tribes

The Maine AFL-CIO’s executive board has voted to endorse a measure that would restore tribal sovereignty for Maine’s four indigenous tribes — Penobscot, Passmaquoddy, Houlton Band of Maliseet and Aroostook Band of Micmacs. LD 1626 would give Maine tribes the same rights as the other 570 federally recognized tribes in 49 states over a range of matters including taxing authority, fish and game regulations, land use, natural resources, criminal justice and more. 

Federal legislation ensures tribes have inherent rights to govern themselves. However, under Maine law, the Wabanaki tribes are excluded from those rights and protections guaranteed by Federal Indian Law. The Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act of 1980 also currently restricts the tribes from purchasing much of their formally dispossessed land. 151 federal laws benefiting Indian Country have been passed that the tribes in Maine have not benefited from because the law.

“We view the need to update the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act of 1980 as similar to the need to update a contract for a group of workers and their employer. Agreements need to be updated so that they work for all parties involved,” said Adam Goode, Legislative and Political Director of the Maine AFL-CIO. “We stand by our tribal neighbors because we know that Maine tribes do not enjoy the same rights, privileges, powers and immunities as other federally recognized tribes. Union members enjoy democracy in the workplace, where every worker has a voice. Our support of this bill is based on extending that principle, so all of our neighbors can enjoy the right to have their voices heard."

Congressman Jared Golden Pushes to Lower Medicare Age to 60

Members of the Maine AFL-CIO's Health Care Committee.


Do you know someone who is still working, just because they need the health insurance coverage for themselves or their family? We know thousands of Mainers are ready to retire but can't for one reason: health insurance. People who have worked for decades at physically demanding jobs in our paper mills, shipyards, construction sites, hospitals, and many more.  

Congressman Jared Golden and three of his colleagues are leading a group of more than 80 members of Congress to push the Biden administration to lower the Medicare eligibility age to 60 and to expand the program to cover vision, dental, and hearing care for all Medicare beneficiaries.

“I've heard many times from Mainers in the second district that the only thing standing between them and retirement is the need for healthcare coverage,” said Congressman Golden in a statement. Many others have told me that late in their working years, one of their greatest fears is the loss of health insurance due to losing their job."

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree has also signed on in support, but we still need our Senators on board. Please click here to send a message to Senator Angus King and Senator Susan Collins asking them to speak out in favor of lowering the Medicare age to 60.

Join Us for the AFL-CIO Northeast District Meeting — Thursday June 10, 10am - 3:30pm

Labor leaders and activists from across the Northeast will join together virtually at the AFL-CIO Northeast District Meeting on Thursday, June 10. 

Participants will get the full picture of the challenges we’ve faced over the past year, share the tools and tactics that shaped our victories, and help chart the course for the labor movement in the coming year. Various workshops will cover how to organize around the PRO Act, how to sharpen your communications skills, voting rights and more.

Click here for more information and to register!

Author & Organizer Jane McAlevey to Join Our Labor Reading Group to Discuss Her New Book

Author and activist Jane McAlevey will join our Labor Reading Group to discuss her book A Collective Bargain: Unions, Organizing, and the Fight for Democracy,” on Thursday, May 27 from 5:30-7pm. 

McAlevey's new book makes the case that unions are the only institution capable of fighting back against today's super-rich corporate class. Click here to register to participate! If you would like to learn more about the book check out these engaging interviews with Jane McAlevey here and here.

New Report Finds 20 Maine Workers Were Killed On The Job in 2019

According toa new report released by the AFL-CIO, 20 Maine workers were killed on the job in 2019. This analysis, based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, shows that there were 3 deaths due to on-the-job injuries per hundred thousand workers in Maine in 2019. 

Nationally in 2019, 5,333 working people were killed on the job and an estimated 90,000 died from occupational diseases. Each and every day, on average, 275 U.S. workers die from hazardous working conditions. The overall rate of fatal job injuries in 2019 was 3.5 per 100,000.

Fifty years ago the Occupational Safety and Health Act went into effect, promising every worker the right to a safe job. The law was won in 1970 because of the tireless efforts of the labor movement and allies, who drew major attention to work-related deaths, disease and injuries, organized for safer working conditions and demanded action from their government.

But today OSHA’s meager resources have kept declining. Federal OSHA now has only 774 safety and health inspectors and state OSHA plans have a combined 1,024 inspectors — the lowest total number of OSHA inspectors since the creation of the agency. It would take federal OSHA 253 years to inspect all covered workplaces once.