MSEA-SEIU Reaches Tentative Agreement, Offshore Wind & More!

IN THIS EDITON:

  • State Employees (MSEA-SEIU Local 1989) Secure Pay Raises in Tentative Agreement
  • Building Trades Bill to Strengthen Prevailing Wages Signed into Law
  • Maine Union Leaders See Opportunity in Offshore Wind
  • Take our Volunteer Survey: Maine’s Labor Movement Needs You!
  • 2019 Labor Summer Institute - sign up today!
  • Better Know a Local: IATSE Local 114 Celebrates 115 Years

MSEA-SEIU Local 1989 Secures Pay Raises for State Employees in Tentative Contract Agreement

State employees rally for a fair contract at the State House last Saturday.

State executive branch employees, members of Maine State Employees Association SEIU Local 1989, have reached a tentative contract agreement with the Mills administration that addresses many overdue needs, begins to recoup losses from years of wage stagnation and sets up workers for greater gains in the future. The agreement will provide pay raises, more longevity pay, paid parental leave and greater parity among Maine Department of Health and Human Services caseworkers. The union did not trade away anything in the negotiations.

“We believe we secured everything we could at the bargaining table,” wrote the MSEA-SEIU 1989 bargaining team in a letter to members. “Over the past year, members met with legislators, commissioners and the Governor to draw attention to the pervasive recruitment and retention issues in State government.”

Union leaders say there’s still work to be done, but the new agreement lays the groundwork for continuing the fight for fair pay and benefits in future negotiations. MSEA-SEIU 1989 members will vote on the contract in the coming weeks.

Governor Signs Bill to Strengthen Prevailing Wage Law

Photo: Chuck Fraser (IBEW 1253), Don Nazoroff (SMART 17), Nick Paquet (IBEW 1253), Jim Valente (IBEW 567), Chris Tucker (LIUNA 327), Governor Janet Mills, Bill Legrand (IUPAT DC 35), Jason Shedlock (Building Trades) and Senate President Troy Jackson.


Governor Janet Mills signed a measure (LD 1658) on Tuesday that will close a loophole that has allowed low-road contractors to skirt prevailing wage laws on publicly funded construction projects such as public schools. Under this new law, projects receiving $50,000 or more in state funds must pay the prevailing wage regardless of the awarding authority. This represents an important step forward in ensuring that contractors play on a level playing field when it comes to wages.

We want to thank Senate President Troy Jackson, the bill's sponsor, for his work on this legislation which will also help reign in the rampant practice of worker misclassification. This is when unscrupulous contractors cheat the system by misclassifying workers as independent contractors to avoid paying taxes, benefits and workers' compensation. Much work still needs to be done to crack down on these criminal contractors stiffing workers & committing tax fraud. It’s estimated that these illegal activities are are costing Americans $2.6 billion in lost federal and state income.

Maine Union Leaders See Big Opportunity in Offshore Wind

The Block Island Wind Project in Rhode Island

Offshore wind is not only a promising way to end our dependence on fossil fuels, but it also has the potential to create a lot of good-paying union jobs. That was the lesson local members of the Building Trades, Ironworkers and United Steelworkers took from a tour of the Block Island Wind Farm this week sponsored by the Blue Green Alliance. Located four miles from Block Island, Rhode Island, union workers completed the five-turbine, 30 megawatt project under a project labor agreement (PLA) with Deepwater Wind in 2016. It was the first offshore wind project in the U.S.

“It's really impressive how it only takes 10 percent of the wind farm’s electricity to power Block Island, so it wouldn’t take very many of those turbines to power the whole state of Maine,” remarked Grant Provost, labor rep for Ironworkers Local 7.

Governor Janet Mills has set an ambitious goal for Maine to transition to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050 and has agreed to participate in the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s Gulf of Maine Intergovernmental Regional Task Force on offshore wind with New Hampshire and Massachusetts to identify opportunities for renewable energy leasing and development on the Outer Continental Shelf in the Gulf of Maine.

The Mills administration is also creating the Maine Offshore Wind Initiative, which will identify opportunities for offshore wind development in the Gulf of Maine and examine ways that Maine can benefit from offshore wind as it pertains to job creation, supply chain and port development. It will also look at ways to minimize the effect of offshore wind on commercial fishing and other maritime industries.

Provost says he hopes Governor Mills will consider the benefits of requiring that future wind projects have Project Labor Agreements to ensure that they use skilled workers who are paid good wages with benefits and that projects are done on time and on budget.

“We have been in communication with the Mills administration and we hope to have a seat at the table during these discussions over future renewable energy investments,” said Provost. “If we’re serious about building a strong movement to fight climate change, it’s crucial that we couple any climate action plan with policies that fight income inequality and strengthen workers' rights.”

We all know that working people face enormous challenges. Bosses, greedy CEOs and their political allies plot to drive down wages and divide workers every day in the name of profit. To fight back and win, we need to utilize the wide range of skills of the diverse group of union members in Maine.

WE NEED YOU to help build a strong, visible local labor movement! We have many ways for people to get involved - data entry, photography, video production, phone banking, public speaking, office work, writing op-eds, tabling events, organizing street demonstration and pickets, legislative advocacy and much more. No matter what your skill set or level of comfort, there’s a place for you in the movement! Please click here for more information and to fill out our volunteer survey!

Don’t Forget to Sign Up for our 2019 Labor Summer Institute!

Registration is now open for the Labor Summer Institute at the University of Maine in Orono on Aug. 7 and 8, so please sign up here to let us know if you plan to attend. This is an amazing opportunity for union members from across the state to get together, network and attend exciting workshops as we work together to build power in the labor movement. For more information, contact Sarah, [email protected] or 622-9675.

Better Know a Local: IATSE 114 Celebrates 115 Years

Stage craft is as old as the stage,” says Doug Born, labor rep of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 114. “As long as there has been a theatrical stage, there have been folks who have built the sets and moved the props.”

With over 70 members, IATSE 114 has been providing professional stagecraft services for concerts, ballet and theater since the vaudeville era of the early 1900s. But the union didn’t just appear out of the blue. It took years of hard fought struggles.

The seeds of IATSE were sown in 1886 when members of the Theatrical Protective Union of New York went on strike for a $1 a day wage. An attempt by producers to replace them with poorly trained strikebreakers blew up in their faces after a poorly-placed flat toppled over onto famed actor Louis James. After actors refused to work with the strikebreakers, the companies rehired the striking stagehands and most of the union’s demands were met.

But life was still hard for many stage hands as they were often exploited and forced to work for long hours for low pay and had very little security. Finally, in the summer of 1893, union representatives of stage hands from across the country met in New York and officially formed the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees to support each other in the fight for fair wages and working conditions.

“The origin of IATSE came from when they went out on the road with vaudeville tours and they were often left stranded in the middle of the country when the show ran out of money. You started in Maine and you ended up in Peoria with no money and no way home,” explained Born. “So through the association you could get money for a hotel and train fare to get home.”

IATSE 114 was later founded on July 15, 1904 in Portland by 20 charter members. These men would have set up shows featuring legendary actresses like Sarah Bernhardt, Lillian Russell, Marie Dressler and Ethel Barrymore as well as Maine natives Maxine Elliott and Juanita Guptill's Gypsy Girls at the old Jefferson Theatre on Free Street and Keith’s Theatre on Preble Street.

These days, IATSE 114 has a collective bargaining agreement with the Cross Insurance Arena and are the exclusive provider of stage labor at the Merrill Auditorium. It can be hard, physical work and the hours are irregular, but working in a union gives IATSE members much better protections than non-union jobs.

“We have a collective voice in the workplace,” says Born. “I worked non-union years ago and there was no overtime. The difference between working union and non-union is that we’re putting more money in workers' pockets.”

As members age, Born says IATSE 114 has had to work hard at recruiting new members, but the local is making great progress to diversity its workforce.

“If we want the union to prosper we’ve got to bring in new blood, so we’ve got more young people and women than ever before,” he said. “And the union has made great strides in the last 30 years with more women in leadership and in more technical and higher paid positions.”

IATSE also represents workers at Channel 8 in Local 926 as well as some Maine workers in the film industry in Local 481.

“Better Know a Local” is a new segment in our newsletter that profiles various union affiliates in the Maine AFL-CIO. If you’d like us to cover your union, please email me at [email protected]