Kevin O'Connell & "Roughing the Uppers!"

IN THIS EDITION:

  • Maine AFL-CIO Endorses Kevin O’Connell in Brewer State House Race
  • Huhtamaki Workers Win Higher Wages & Better Benefits in New Contract
  • WMLC Screening "Roughing the Uppers" — 3/17
  • Time for a Clean Slate for Worker Power!
  • Join Our Labor Book Club!

Maine AFL-CIO Endorses Kevin O’Connell in Brewer State House Race

The Maine AFL-CIO’s executive board has voted to endorse Kevin O’Connell of Brewer, a longtime member of IBEW Local 1837, in his race for House District 128, which comprises most of Brewer. The special election to fill this seat that was left vacant by the late Archie Verow will be held on March 3. Kevin is a first class lineworker at Emera Maine, a 24-year military veteran and former Brewer mayor. Kevin has pledged to support workers' rights, fair wages and fully restoring revenue sharing to our cash-strapped towns and cities. We are enthusiastically backing his candidacy and we know that he will well represent the interests of working people up in Augusta! 

Huhtamaki Workers Ratify New Contract with Higher Wages, Better Benefits & More Union Jobs

Members of United Steelworkers Local 449 have voted overwhelming to ratify a new five-year contract that raises wages, improves benefits and increases the number of union jobs at the Huhtamaki paper packaging mill in Waterville. An initial contract proposal was rejected by 70 percent of the workers, so negotiators went back to the table to address concerns of members. The second proposal was approved by nearly 70 percent of members. 

The five-year contracts includes:
  • Wage increases of 2.85 percent in the first year, 2.5 percent in the second year, 2.5 percent in the third year, 2.75 percent in the fourth year and 3 percent in the fifth year.
  • A 50 cent wage increase on top of the 2.5 percent increase for 140 workers in the smooth finish department.
  • Six weeks of paid vacation for workers with 35 years of service, which will impact 75 employees at the mill.
  • Improvements to disability, dental and life insurances while keeping health insurance benefits at the same level.
  • An increase of between 30 and 40 new union jobs at the mill.
“This is one of the best contracts I’ve seen in the 25 years I’ve worked at Huhtamaki. Some of our veteran employees who have been here 30 or 40 years also say this is the best contract they’ve ever seen," said Lee Drouin, President of USW Local 449. "We haven’t seen wage increases and benefit gains like this in a long time."

WMLC Screening "Roughing the Uppers" — 3/17

On April 20, 1937 intense clashes between police and striking shoe factory workers broke out on the streets of Lewiston and Auburn. As strikers attempted to march from Lewiston City Hall to Auburn, they were confronted by state and local police wielding batons. In the chaos that followed, a woman striker was clubbed by police and a “free-for-all riot” ensued, according to the Lewiston Daily Sun. The next day, Governor Lewis Barrows ordered the Maine National Guard to Auburn to disperse the crowds with tear gas.

On March 17, the Western Maine Labor Council will be screening “Roughing the Uppers,” the award-winning 1992 documentary about the famous 1937 shoe strike. Maine labor historian Charlie Scontras, who appears in the film, will be in attendance to discuss the historic labor struggle. Refreshments will be provided.

When: Tuesday, March 17, 6-8pm

Where: USM Lewiston-Auburn Campus, 51 Westminster St., Lewiston, Room 170

Please RSVP to Joe Mailey:  [email protected]

Time for a Clean Slate for Worker Power!

More than 70 labor leaders, scholars, and activists have contributed to a new report by Harvard Law School's Labor and Worklife program called "Clean Slate for Worker Power." The report lays out a vision for a massive overhaul of U.S. labor law to put power in the hands of workers and make it much easier for any worker to join a union. The report argues that strengthening labor unions and worker power represents the most effective strategy to combat America's economic inequality and corporate control over the economy and politics. Read more about its recommendations here.

Join Our Labor Reading Club!

Members of the Maine AFL-CIO have started a new reading group to discuss labor related books and articles. This month, the club is discussing veteran labor organizer Jane McAlevey's book "No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age," where she presents a dozen case studies of unions and social movements effecting change in the 21st century – what’s working and why. 

Maine AFL-CIO President Cynthia Phinney is hosting the reading group meetings in person and by Zoom video conference, so if you're interested please contact Cynthia — [email protected]. The first discussion for this book is coming right up Thursday, February 27 5:30pm at the Maine AFL-CIO office (or by Zoom video conference) but it’s likely the group will have a second discussion since it’s just getting rolling.