Let's Bring Union Construction Jobs Back to Maine!

IN THIS EDITION:

  • Workers Turn Out for Responsible Contracting
  • This Saturday: Letter Carriers’ “Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive!”
  • Workers of Color Forming A. Philip Randolph Institute Chapter
  • IBEW Workers Win Significant Staffing Demands from CMP
  • Providing Retirement Security for Mental Health & Corrections Workers
  • Earned Time Bill Passes Legislature
  • Maine Labor History: A Jamaican Farmworker Strike

MAINE BUILDING TRADES BACKS BILL TO REQUIRE RESPONSIBLE CONTRACTING ON STATE-FUNDED CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS

AFSCME, IAFF & Building Trades members at the State House to support bills promoting responsible

contracting & retirement security for mental health workers, firefighters & corrections officers.

Workers took time out of their busy schedules on Wednesday to testify in support of legislation that will create good-paying working class jobs, develop the skilled trades workforce of the future and crack down on tax fraud, worker exploitation and corporate greed. LD 1639 would ensure that responsible, quality contractors are hired for state-funded construction projects and that they use skilled workers that are paid living wages with benefits. The measure would promote health and safety on the job while preventing disreputable contractors from misclassifying workers, skirting tax laws and cutting corners in the name of profit.

“The fact is, because of the climate for construction workers in Maine, many of our members are working out of state because that’s where the jobs are that allow them to gain training, work safely and earn a salary with benefits to support a family,” said Jason J. Shedlock, Executive Director of the Maine State Building & Construction Trades Council.  “We love the fact that Governor Mills put up a sign at the state line that says ‘Welcome Home.’ But currently, how do you think those tradesmen and women feel, when, after spending weeks or months away from their families, cross into Maine, often times with a camper they’ve called a home in tow, and see that sign? LD 1639 is a common sense reform package that will move Maine forward.”

LD 1639 would also ensure that workers on state-funded projects participate in registered apprenticeship programs, have valid certifications and meet all the bonding requirements, including having general liability, workers comp. and unemployment insurance. These apprenticeships will help build a skilled workforce at a time when Maine is struggling to fill jobs in the trades.

“In the time that I have been with Local 7, I have received numerous trainings and classes to further my knowledge and to master skills to use on the job site,” said Zach Sellner, a second-year apprentice with Ironworkers Local 7.  “I have spent up to four days in a row in Boston and I have even gone Saturdays to the hall and spent the day in class. It is important that there are rules and regulations in place to ensure workers like myself are equipped with the skills and knowledge needed to complete a job. LD 1639 will ensure that these laws are followed and the job is done right.”

Senate President Troy Jackson (D-Allagash), the bill’s sponsor, urged the Labor and Housing Committee to carry over LD 1639 until next year to provide time for all stakeholders to continue working on the Legislation.

LETTER CARRIERS' STAMP OUT HUNGER FOOD DRIVE THIS SATURDAY!

Left to right: Mark Seitz (NALC Branch 92), Tim White (Branch 391), John MacGregor (Branch 92), Stewart McCallister (Branch 92) and Jon Brackett, President of the MaineState Association of Letter Carriers. Gov. Janet Mills.

On Tuesday, Gov. Janet Mills signed a proclamation declaring Saturday May 11, 2019 “Letter Carriers Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive Day.” Every year on the second Saturday in May, Letter Carriers in Maine participate in the nationwide food drive to collect non-perishable food donations and bring them to local food pantries across the state. So don’t forget to place your non-perishable food donations by your mailbox for your letter carrier this Saturday!

WORKERS OF COLOR FORMING A. PHILIP RANDOLPH INSTITUTE CHAPTER

Garrett Stewart of IAM S6 and the Maine AFL-CIO are in the process of forming a chapter of the A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI), a constituency group within the AFL-CIO to engage and support members of color and their allies. The fledgling Maine APRI group has launched an outreach program to meet with union members of color to find out about their experiences in their workplaces, unions and communities. In addtion to being a civil rights icon, A. Philip Randolph was a pioneering African-American labor leader, organizing the the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first predominantly African-American labor union.

Along these same lines, Maine AFL-CIO offered testimony at the recent public hearing on LD777, which would establish a permanent commission to study socio-economic disparities among Maine’s racial, indigenous, and tribal populations in the state. The commission will gather data, hold hearings, and make recommendations among other duties.

As the APRI chapter develops, the Commission established by LD 777 will provide both information to support that work and opportunities for APRI to engage the issues through an annual public hearing and other activities. If you are interested in being involved with the Maine APRI, click here to sign up!

Electrical Workers Win Significant Staffing Demands from CMP

IBEW Local 1837 and Central Maine Power Company (CMP) have agreed to an extension of their staffing agreement that will provide a substantial increase in the number of workers employed at Maine’s largest electric utility. IBEW 1837 Business Manager Dick Rogers has been advocating for increased staffing for several years.
“I signed an extension of the staffing agreement that I believe, along with the staffing plan submitted by the company to the Maine Public Utility Commission and once fully implemented, will have the impact CMP’s customers and our members deserve including restoration efforts, new construction/customer service and safety,” Rogers said in a statement.
The “minimum” number of Union employees at CMP will increase from 546 to 606. That includes the addition of twelve new line apprentices and four new station apprentices. By 2024, the fully implemented minimum staffing number will be 665.

COMMITTEE CONSIDERS BILL TO PROVIDE RETIREMENT SECURITY FOR MENTAL HEALTH & CORRECTIONS WORKERS

Riverview Psychiatric Center workers Shelby Moreau, Gabe Hamlin & Penny Hill at the State House to support LD 1659.

Corrections officers and state mental health workers testified Wednesday in support of LD 1659, which would allow them to retire after 25 years of service under a special retirement plan. During a public hearing on the bill in the Labor and Housing Committee, workers testified that this retirement plan, which is already available to Maine State Prison employees, is urgently needed due to the extremely physical and emotional demands of their jobs.

Employees of Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta recounted their harrowing experiences looking after volatile patients with severe mental illness, including many who have been placed there by the criminal justice system because they have been found not criminally responsible for their crimes.

“Dealing with people who are mentally ill is very physically stressful as well as mentally stressful. I’ve always loved my job, but it’s very dangerous,” said Penny Hill, a senior mental health worker at Riverview and member of AFSCME member. “I have been sexually assaulted twice. My daughter was in nursing school and had planned to make a career of working at Riverview until she was stabbed there while she was pregnant with my granddaughter. I’ve had chairs broken over my back and my face smashed into the floor. I’ve seen a lot of hard working people get hurt there. This bill will allow us to have some kind of physical life after we retire instead of having our bodies all broken down.”

LEGISLATURE PASSES EARNED TIME BILL

The Maine Legislature has passed a bill that will provide earned time off for 139,000 employees who don’t currently have the benefit. LD 369, which was originally proposed as an earned sick leave bill, was amended to require employers with more than ten employees to provide earned time off. Under the amendment, these workers will accrue one hour of time off for every 40 hours worked after working for the same employer for 120 days. The policy would cover an estimated 85 percent of Maine workers. If signed by the governor, the law would take effect in 2021.

THE JAMAICAN FARMWORKER STRIKE OF 1946

A few weeks ago, the Legislature’s Labor and Housing Committee rejected a bill that would have allowed farmworkers to collectively bargain. While, several farmers testified that there workers were perfectly happy with their wages and working conditions, proponents noted that migrant workers are easily exploited due to their immigration status as they have too much to lose by protesting the conditions of their employment. But at certain times in Maine history, farmworkers have fought back.

73 years ago this week a group of 43 Jamaican farm workers staged a brief sit-down strike in the railroad coach which had brought them to Portland. Upon arriving on May 7, 1946, the men learned that the prevailing wage for farm labor in Maine was only 50 cents per hour, whereas they had been paid 75 cents per hour in Florida. Most of the men reported to work late in the day, after agreeing to meet with the employers and State and Federal labor officials to discuss the issue later in the week. However, ten of the men, upon finding that the mattresses in their living quarters had no ticking, later returned to Union Station. — from Maine Working Class History, Source: “Lewiston Daily Sun,” May 7, 1946.