Convention recap, organizing victory & more!

IN THIS EDITION:

  • Maine AFL-CIO Biennial Convention Recap!
  • Union Members Call on Maine's Congressional Delegation to Support Build Back Better Act
  • Maine Democratic Party Staffers Form Union with IBEW 1837
  • USPS Hiring for Mail Carriers Throughout Maine
  • New Pro-Labor Laws Take Effect
  • Ironworker on New Limerick Project Discusses Her Transition from Homelessness to a Union Career

New E-Board Elected, Award Winners Honored and Labor Workshops Held at 33rd Biennial Convention

This week, union delegates from across Maine attended our 33rd Maine AFL-CIO Biennial Convention on Zoom, where they elected a new Executive Board and re-elected Brother Doug Born (IATSE 114) as Secretary Treasurer. Delegates heard from AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler and also passed a resolution supporting comprehensive labor law reform and the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, which you can read here.

Convention delegates discussed some of the 20 pro-labor bills that became law during this past legislative session in Augusta -- including new laws that will help municipal employees negotiate better contracts by fully funding education and revenue sharing, use Project Labor Agreements on renewable energy projects, strengthen the unemployment and re-employment system and finally require OSHA 10 safety training on publicly funded construction projects -- and practiced using our legislative scorecard to talk with co-workers.

On Tuesday night, there wasn’t a dry eye in house, as our award winners — including John Napolitano (Plumbers & Pipefitters 716), John Martell (IAFF ), Suzy Young (ME AFL-CIO Unemployment Assistance Group), Senator Craig Hickman and the Maine Medical Center Nurses (MSNA/NNU) and Shop Steward of the Year, Katie Duncan (MSEA SEIU 1989) — made incredibly moving speeches. You can watch the livestream of the event —  including a great discussion with union members about their recent organizing wins — right here on Facebook.

On Wednesday, members discussed our vision for developing a pre-apprenticeship program in Maine to connect women, people of color, veterans, immigrants, low-income individuals and other workers to apprenticeships and training for union careers in the building trades and other good union jobs. A video about the program is available here.

We heard inspiring updates on contract campaigns from IATSE, organizing campaigns (Bates workers & Maine Democratic Party staff), labor & faith organizing, Solidarity Harvest and lots more. Finally, delegates and guests attended workshops on lessons from recent organizing victories, strengthening unions with digital communications tools,  building worker power by running for office, how unions are engaging around vaccinations and vaccine mandates, labor and racial justice led by APRI, the labor movement’s response to climate change and more. If you are interested in getting involved or learning more about any of these topics, please feel free to reply to this email and let us know! In the meantime, stay tuned for our COPE Convention in June of 2022!

Union Members Call on Congressional Delegation to Support Build Back Better Act

Members of the Maine Service Employees Association and State Rep. Scott Cuddy (D-Winterport) joined climate advocates for a press conference in Bangor on Thursday to call on Maine’s congressional delegation to support the Build Back Better Act (BBBA), which would create good union jobs in the clean energy and care sectors. 

MSEA President Dean Staffieri noted that BBBA would provide more federal funding for home care, which would increase wages and benefits for home care workers and allow elderly Mainers and people with disabilities to live more independently and avoid expensive nursing homes.

“With the oldest population per capita in the nation, our great State of Maine is struggling with an urgent need for home care services,” said Staffieri. “Maine already struggles to find enough care workers. Poor wages, virtually no time off, and insufficient trainings have contributed to extremely high turnover rates and a larger workforce shortage. These conditions have brought us a growing population of elderly and disabled Mainers getting inconsistent, substandard care, if any care at all. This is not sustainable. We need to see federal action.”

Staffieri said the recent closures of nursing homes in Deer Isle, Bingham and Coopers Mills, as well as a group home in Auburn, have added to the urgency of passing federal funding for home care. He noted that the bill would also strengthen labor laws and worker protections for workers forming unions, such as the Bates College staff and educators who have filed an unfair labor practice charge against the college administration for illegally threatening employees with the loss of benefits and even termination if they form a union. 

Speakers also highlighted the bill’s target of cutting carbon pollution in half by 2030 and its investments in union jobs in clean energy. Rep. Scott Cuddy, who is a journeyman electrician with IBEW 1253, pointed out that there is a solar boom in Maine and the state needs electricians, but there’s no plan in place to help move people into these union apprenticeships. He noted that Build Back Better will create one to two million new apprenticeship slots. It also includes strong labor standards attached to renewable energy tax credits.

“Maine needs thousands of new electricians and President Biden is trying to help us, and we need our whole delegation to support him in this,” said Cuddy. “Jared Golden has been a good friend to working people in the past, and he needs to have our back again and cast a vote to help us Build Back Better.”

Maine Democratic Party Staffers Unionize

We would like to welcome the latest members of Maine’s labor movement! The permanent staff of the Maine Democratic Party have formed a union with IBEW 1837. Party Affairs Director April Thibodeau said at the Biennial Convention this week that the party voluntarily recognized the union, honoring workers desire to form a union.  The workers are currently bargaining for their first contract.

"We’re all really excited. All of our staff are very much on board with it,” said Thibodeau. “As political staff, we tend to be true believers and we really give it our all. Typically in politics we operate on a tight budget, so we tend not to unionize when we need a union and really should organize. By forming a union, we hope that we can set better work-life boundaries, create more permanency in our staff so there’s less turn over, and strengthen the relationship between the Maine Democratic Party and the labor movement in Maine. This is a very important step to living our values as a party.”

US Postal Service Hiring for Letter Carriers Across Maine

Are you interested in a good union career delivering mail in Maine? The US Postal Service is short about 100,000 workers nationwide and is hiring for letter carrier positions all over Maine. According to the USPS website, there are numerous openings for mail carriers throughout the state, from York to Aroostook County. In Portland there are 30 openings alone. Starting pay is $18.51 for city carriers, but by the time they are hired, it will jump to $18.90 to start. 

If you’d like to apply, click here!

New Pro-Labor Laws Take Effect!

Several key labor bills that will improve the lives of workers throughout Maine went into effect this month after the Maine Legislature passed them into law earlier this year. These new laws include:

LD1656 — An Act To Promote Energy-efficient Affordable Housing funds the construction of affordable, energy efficient housing with a skilled local construction workforce. The housing will be developed under a project labor agreement – a pre-hire, project wide agreement to ensure the work is high quality and delivered on time and under budget.

LD 2087 — An Act Relating to Fair Chance in Employment prohibits employers from inquiring about an individual’s criminal history on an initial employment application and from stating in employment advertisements that an applicant with a criminal history may not apply. An employer may inquire about a prospective employee's criminal history during an interview or once the prospective employee has been determined otherwise qualified for the position. The law makes an exception if a background check is required or if it would be inappropriate for an individual with a certain criminal history to apply.

LD 1564 — An Act To Amend the Laws Governing Unemployment Compensation modernizes Maine’s unemployment insurance program to ensure that workers will receive timely and adequate unemployment benefits. It creates a Peer Workforce Navigator program to support laid off workers to access unemployment benefits and connect to good jobs and training programs, increases supplemental UI benefits for dependent children, improves eligibility for partial benefits and will improve the number of laid off workers who actually receive unemployment benefits.

LD 469 — An Act To Ensure Safety across Maine's Construction Industry helps ensure safer workplaces on publicly funded construction projects by requiring the OSHA-10 safety training for all craft workers on these projects.

LD 875 — An Act To Protect Taxpayers in the Privatization of Services and To Establish the State Procurement Review Committee protects workers and the public from the dangers of privatization by putting in place a clear process and set of criteria to consider when privatization proposals are put forward, including impacts on wages, health insurance and the cost of providing services.

LD 1664 "To Improve the Disability Retirement Program of the Maine Public Employees Retirement System” makes multiple improvements to MEPERs public sector Disability Retirement program

LD 52 — “Regarding the Negotiation of Educational Policies by School Boards”allows teachers to negotiate educational policy if a school district has not publicly adopted a policy.

LD 993 — "An Act To Retroactively Grant Sick Leave Days to Public School Employees Affected by COVID-19" provides paid sick leave up to 15 days for educators who used leave for COVID in 2021.

To find out how your legislators voted on some of these bills check out our Legislative Scorecard!

Ironworker on New Limerick Project Recounts Her Transition from Homelessness to a Good Union Career

Getting into a union apprenticeship program and learning a skilled trade can be a transformative experience. No one understands that better than Nani Noverita, a member of Ironworkers Local 46, who is currently working on a factory expansion project up in New Limerick, Maine with Ironworkers Local 7. As Noverita explains in this 2014 video, when she and her husband came to New York, they were both homeless and had to sleep in Central Park. 

However, she soon discovered a program called Nontraditional Employment for Women (NEW), which has helped thousands of low-income women of color prepare for careers in the building and construction trades. After living for six weeks in the homeless shelter, she got into the program and learned about different construction trades, before deciding on the Ironworkers apprenticeship program. She later became a metal lather in Local 46 and her career has taken her all over the United States, including Maine.

“I would have never thought in a million years I would be here,” says Noverita in the video. “You would have never convinced me back then that I would be here right now — bought my car with cash, bought a beautiful place to live in, have money in the bank and building up savings? Oh my gosh, a year and a half ago I would have been crying thinking that there was no way I was going to be able to do that."