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MSEA-SEIU 1989 Members Testify in Support of More Funding for Maine Maritime Academy

Andy O’Brien
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PHOTO: Sam Sotirelis (MSEA-SEIU)

Maine Service Employees Association (MSEA-SEIU 198) members testified on January 31 in support of LD 2092, An Act to Equalize Funding for the Maine Maritime Academy.” The proposal, which is sponsored by Sen. Nicole Grohoski (D-Ellsworth), would provide ongoing funds to increase the state’s share of operational funding so that it becomes commensurate with other public colleges and universities in the State that have enrollment within approximately 50 percent of Maine Maritime Academy’s (MMA) enrollment.

MSEA, which represents workers at Maine Maritime Academy, argued that the bill would help ensure that MMA is adequately funded and staffed.

“As of 2023, MMA received roughly 23 percent of its operational budget from state funding, which compares to an average of 40 percent-plus in State funding enjoyed by its peer institutions in Maine within around 50 percent of its enrollment,” said Beth White, MSEA’s director of politics and legislation. “This funding disparity means that MMA must make up the gap through a myriad of ways that inevitably result in raising tuition, limiting programming and minimizing labor costs to the detriment of both enrolled students and those employed by MMA.”

MSEA member and custodian Sam Sotirelis said that custodians earn just $16.28 an hour at MMA, which amounts to $1800 a month. This is barely enough to cover a rental in Hancock County, where they generally start at $1600 a month if you can even find one. He added that MMA workers are currently negotiating a contract and have been offered “the insulting amount of a 2 percent raise” - to an extra 33 cents more an hour for custodians like him.

“I feel that there has to be a much higher value placed on the work that is done by the custodial staff,” said Sotirelis. “To show how much it is valued – it is only appropriate to offer a livable wage that would actually be commensurate with being an Essential Worker. We are there every day doing the work that makes everyone proud to work and for the students to live in such a clean and, therefore, healthy environment.”