Honoring Workers Requires Action


  • Labor Day Caravan Rolls Through Portland
  • Without Federal Aid, State & Municipalities Forced to Make Cuts
  • To Build Union Power We Need to Build Movements & Elect Pro-Labor Candidates
  • Collins-Approved NLRB Guts Union Protections

Labor Day Caravan Rolls Through Portland, Workers Call for COVID Relief Legislation

The Grim Reaper leads the Labor Day Caravan from the Eastern Prom in Portland.

On Labor Day, the Maine AFL-CIO, the Southern Maine Workers’ Center and Southern Maine Labor Council held a press conference and car caravan across Portland to call on our elected officials to immediately pass COVID-19 relief legislation to protect workers, provide federal aid to state and local governments, boost unemployment benefits, save the US Postal Service and address racial disparities in both the health and economic crisis. 

“We gather to celebrate labor. We honor those who are working. We honor those whose work is unpaid, those who cannot find work, those who have lost their work, and we honor those whose work has cost them their lives in this pandemic,” said Maine AFL-CIO president Cynthia Phinney.

Scott Adams of the Postal Workers Union Local 458, Portland firefighter (IAFF 740) Ben Freeman and several other workers also spoke at the event. Following the press conference, the Grim Reaper and a giant puppet of Senator Susan Collins sipping a man tai led a funeral procession for the workers who have needlessly died of COVID-19 while a brass band played a somber tune. You can watch a full video of the event here.

Without Federal Aid, State & Municipalities Forced to Make Cuts

Ben Freeman (IAFF 740) speaking on Labor Day.

Since Senate Republicans refuse to provide federal aid to cash-strapped state and local governments, the Mills administration announced last Wednesday that it will be forced to implement a hiring freeze and curtail $256 million in spending. Currently, the state is facing a $1.4 billion budget shortfall over the next three years combined, due to the COVID-induced economic crisis.  

“The U.S. House of Representatives passed federal COVID-19 relief for unemployed workers and state and local governments in May in the form of the HEROES Act, but instead of passing it, the U.S. Senate took the summer off,” said Dean Staffieri, President of the Maine Service Employees Association, SEIU Local 1989. “Without substantial and immediate federal action, essential services in Maine and throughout our nation could be at risk with no end to the pandemic in sight.”

Municipalities are also facing drastic cuts without a federal aid package. Speaking at our Labor Day press conference, Portland firefighter Ben Freeman, IAFF 740, (upper right) noted that Portland will be forced to lay off 30 workers while dozens more face furloughs and lost wages.

“It’s time for Mitch McConnell and the Senate to remember that states and cities have employees too,” said Freeman. “These employees maintain our streets, keep our neighborhoods clean, teach our kids and work to keep all of us safe. We urge you to contact Senator Collins and Senator King and ask them to get back to work, support working Mainers and pass state and local economic aid today.”

To Build Union Power We Need to Build Movements and Elect Pro-Labor Candidates

Over the past 70 years, anti-union laws have severely weakened the power of workers to band together to demand better wages and fair treatment. From so-called right to work laws to banning sympathy strikes, there are countless ways that corporate lobbyists and their toadies in Congress have concocted ways to attack workers’ rights. To reverse these attacks, workers need to continue to take collective action together and build powerful movements to assert our rights and we need to build political support by electing pro-labor candidates. 

In Maine, Congressman Jared Golden has been an outspoken supporter of unions joining picket lines, calling CEOs during organizing drives and contract campaigns and pushing his colleagues in Congress to pass the PRO Act, federal pro-labor legislation which would repeal numerous anti-union policies, ban right-to-work laws and strengthen workers right to organize.  The PRO Act passed the US House but has never been given a vote in the US Senate.  Sara Gideon supports the PRO Act. Senator Susan Collins has refused to take a position on the PRO Act and has refused to push MItch McConnell to give the bill a vote in the Senate. 

To succeed we have to continue building a workers movement and supporting each other's contract, organizing and issue campaigns and we need elected officials who will fight for workers' rights and freedom to organize and bargain for a better life. 

Collins-Approved National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Guts Union Protections

With all of the upheaval in national politics, it’s easy to overlook that President Trump’s National Labor Relations Board has been quietly gutting labor protections and making it much harder to collectively bargain and enforce contracts. The NLRB is currently run by pro-corporate members nominated by President Donald Trump and confirmed by Senate Republicans, including Sen. Susan Collins. 

As the Maine Beacon reported, the NLRB recently issued a series of memos denying workers the right to midterm bargaining over temporary closures, access to Personal Protective Equipment and paid sick days in response to COVID-19 pandemic. A separate NLRB decision also makes it easier for employers to fire workers who speak out about workplace safety issues. 

Then this week, the Collins-approved National Labor Relations Board members voted to allow employers to discipline or fire union stewards and officers for swearing during heated meetings with management. The decision also permits employers to discipline union members for posting disparaging comments about managers on social media as well as strikers for swearing on the picket line.

We can reverse these decisions if we elect pro labor candidates for US Senate and President who will replace this anti-union NLRB with a more labor friendly board.