Labor Day / Lobster regs / Union Support Climbs

IN THIS EDITION:

  • Workers Hold Virtual Labor Day Celebrations & Push PRO Act
  • Maine Med Nurses in COVID ICU Urge Mainers to Get Vaccinated
  • UMaine & USM Offer Courses in Labor Studies
  • Here’s What Maine Will Receive In the Federal Infrastructure Bill
  • APRI Maine Visits “Reckoning With Intolerance in Maine” Exhibit
  • Maine Lobstering Union Fights Fishing Regulations
  • Nominate Your Favorite Steward for “Steward of the Year”
  • America Loves Unions: Public Support for Unions at Record High!

Workers Hold Virtual Labor Day Celebrations & Write AboutValue of Their Unions

Unfortunately, Central Labor Councils were forced to cancel in-person Labor Day festivities again this year due to the surge in COVID-19 cases, but we still made our voices heard about the value of labor and the fight for workers’ rights.

The Eastern Maine Labor Council held its 18th Annual Labor Day celebration on Zoom on Monday night. Maine Med nurse Emily Wilder discussed the nurses' union election victory at Maine Med last spring, nurse Erin Oberson (MSNA) talked about recent victories at Northern Light and Bangor City Councilor Gretchen Schaefer discussed the role of local elected officials in standing up for union members. Maulian Dana, the Tribal Ambassador of the Penobscot Nation, spoke about strengthening solidarity with the local indigenous community.

Last week, the Southern Maine Labor Council also held a special Labor Day themed meeting featuring special guests, Senate President Troy Jackson and Maine Department of Labor Commissioner Laura Fortman.

This year, several union members from across the state wrote guest columns and letters to the editor about what their unions mean to them and why they support the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act. The Portland Press Herald, the Times Record, Kennebec Journal, Morning Sentinel, York Weekly and The Free Press  published Labor Day pieces by various union members, including Maine AFL-CIO President Cynthia PhinneyRep. Amy Roeder (PATFA-AFT), John Portela (IAM S6)Carl Anderson (IAFF 1584)Joel Hooper (USW 900)Chris French (MSEA-SEIU 1989) and Elizabeth O’Connor (AFSCME Council 93). If you would like to send a letter to the editor to your local newspaper about why you support the PRO Act click here.

Finally, Fox Bangor interviewed us for a great little Labor Day segment on the history of the Labor Movement in Maine, which you can watch here.

Maine Med Nurses in COVID ICU Urge Mainers to Get Vaccinated

Please take a moment to watch this powerful and heart wrenching video of union nurses at Maine Medical Center talking about what it's like trying to save lives in the COVID Intensive Care Unit and how so many deaths could have been prevented if these patients had only gotten vaccinated.

"It’s so upsetting because so many people think that COVID is not real. I wish I could bring people in here and they could actually see what we do. Many times I have had a patient come in here who is not vaccinated. They are so sick they can’t breathe and you see the fear in their eyes. Sometimes they mutter, 'I wish I had gotten vaccinated' and then they go on to be intubated. Some of those people live. Some of them don’t.”  

 — Kimberly Matheson, RN, MMC COVID ICU.

UMaine & USM Offer Courses in Labor Studies

With the school year upon us, Maine students are back in school learning about the labor movement, labor laws and workers' rights. At the University of Maine, the Bureau of Labor Education offers an 18-credit Minor in Labor Studies for undergraduates and a 24 credit Bachelors in University Studies on a Labor Studies track for older students who are continuing their education. The programs are conducted from the point of view of workers and unions in the same way that business schools examine similar subjects from the point of view of managers and businesses.

The Bureau of Labor Education also helps place students in internship programs with unions and sponsors them to attend programs like the Maine AFL-CIO’s Worker Candidate Training. For more information visit the Bureau of Labor Education website

UMaine’s political science department also offers the ENACT Labor Policy Fellowship, which provides students with a stipend to research labor policy — including wages, workers' rights, workers' compensation, unemployment and workforce development. Fellows pick active labor legislation in Augusta to follow and research while engaging with lawmakers, policy advocates and other groups.

Meanwhile, several students at the University of Southern Maine have enrolled in the Minor in Labor Studies program, an interdisciplinary program which focuses on the lives of workers, unions and the relationships between labor, work and class as well as the intersections of class with race, ethnicity and gender. The program also provides a critical examination of capitalist development. To learn more about the USM Labor Studies click here.

Here’s What Maine Will Receive In the Federal Infrastructure Bill

The US House will be taking up a federal infrastructure bill later this month, which would provide much needed investments to improve roads, bridges, transportation and broadband infrastructure in Maine. Check out this meme for details!

A. Philip Randolph Institute Members Visit “Reckoning With Intolerance in Maine” Exhibit

Last Saturday, members of the Maine Chapter of the A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI) visited the Maine Historical Society Museum’s new exhibit titled “BEGIN AGAIN: reckoning with intolerance in Maine,” which examines “the roots of social justice topics and aims to stimulate civic engagement and foster dialogue among Mainers in the national discussion on race equity."

The exhibit includes former IAM Local S6 member and acting APRI President Garrett Stewart’s reflections as a third generation black Mainer whose grandfather originally came to work in the old South Portland shipyard in the 1940s. Stewart recalled that his father was one of the best athletes at Deering High School in the early 1960s and was even a professional boxer with a 9-1 record fighting at the Portland Expo.

“During the 1960s when he was a teenager, my father was a weekly guest dancing with White teens on the Dave Astor show — Maine’s version of American Bandstand that was broadcast throughout the state on Saturday nights,” wrote Stewart. “Although this was a common site for people in this area, Jim Crow was still segregating the South. I don’t believe my father truly knew what a big deal that was at the time. He had been here all his life and had wonderful lifelong friends of all backgrounds.” 

You can view the online exhibit on Maine Memory Network or visit in person at the museum through Dec 31.

Maine Lobstering Union (IAM 207) Fights Fishing Regulations

The National Atmospheric Administration recently imposed new fishing regulationsdesigned to protect the North Atlantic right whale, but members of the Maine Lobstering Union Machinists Local 207 argue that the new rules are too costly, overly restrictive and will do little to protect the endangered animal. 

The new rules, which have been at the center of a contentious debate between fishermen and federal regulators for a decade, are aimed at reducing the number of rope lines that connect buoys to lobster and crab traps to prevent right whale entanglements. The regulations require weaker ropes to help the whales to break free from entanglements more easily and close areas of the Gulf of Maine to fishing with ropes from October to December.

MLU member Ginny Olsen says lobstermen aren’t opposed to right whale protections outside Lobster Management Area 3 on the continental shelf, where she argues most of the right whale traffic travels on their way up to the Gulf of St. Lawrence. However, she argues that the requirement to use ropeless gear in these areas is unworkable.

“We have a lot of issues with having to use this type of gear. They’re not ready for deployment yet, they’re extremely costly and they’re not safe,” said Olsen. “You have to use cell phones and mobile devices to deploy them. Anyone who uses a cell phone in Maine knows how reliable they are. If you have ropeless gear and a sternman falls overboard, you’ve got to grab your cell phone, open an app, deploy a buoy, wait for it to rise to the surface, grab your buoy and put it in the holler. Those are valuable minutes that have just lost and now your sternman has drowned. When you have the rope at your fingertips, you can save them more easily.”

Olsen praised Congressman Jared Golden for leading the effort against the new regulations as well as Governor Janet Mills, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree and Senators Angus King and Susan Collins who have joined Golden in opposing "undue burdens that would threaten the lobster fishery … but which do not meaningfully protect whales.”

Nominate A Union Steward for “Steward of the Year”

It’s that time of year again - time to nominate that outstanding  shop steward in your union for our annual “Steward of the Year” award. Do you have a shop steward who goes beyond the call of duty? Someone who fights hard to enforce contracts, educates and helps members with workplace issues, engages members in collective action and more? Please use this form to nominate your favorite steward! A winner will be selected and will receive the award at our Biennial Convention in late October.

Americans Love Unions!

Just in time for Labor Day, the polling firm Gallup just dropped the results of a new surveyfinding that 68 percent of Americans now approve of labor unions! That marks the highest level of support since 1965. Support for unions has climbed to 77 percent among Americans ages 18 to 34. Approval for unions is at 90 percent among Democrats, 47 percent among Republicans and 66 percent for independents.

Unfortunately, just 11 percent of US workers are currently union members compared to 20 percent in the early 1980s. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but the public is on our side. It's time for the US Senate listen to public opinion and pass the PRO Act to better ensure workers have the right to form unions.