An Organizing Win!

IN THIS EDITION:

  • Preble Street Workers Form Union
  • Register now for Labor Summer Institute!
  • Nurses to Rally in Calais 
  • More Pro-Labor Victories
  • Papermaker & Discussion — 6/23
  • Ironworkers Going Strong in Maine
  • 110 Years Ago: Maine AFL Endorses Women’s Suffrage

           Summer Institute 2018 Was a Blast! 2019 Will Be Even Better!

AUGUST 7 & 8, 2019, Orono

Registration is now open for the 2019 Labor Summer Institute, co-sponsored by the Maine AFL-CIO and the Bureau of Labor Education! At the Summer Institute union members from across Maine spend two days discussing how to build a stronger labor movement. We share ideas and skills and learn key lessons from labor history that inform our understanding of our present and our future.

We will also once again host an international delegation of union members to share their experiences with Maine workers. This year’s event will be held on Wednesday, August 7, and Thursday, August 8, in Orono at the University of Maine. To learn more and to register for this amazing experience please visit our website!

Preble Street Workers Vote Overwhelmingly to Form Union

Preble Street workers Leslie Torkelson and Philippa Adam after the NLRB election.

Workers at Preble Street in Portland, Lewiston and Bangor have voted 90-11 to form a union represented by the Maine State Employees Association-Service Workers International Union (MSEA-SEIU) Local 1989. Preble Street provides support for Mainers experiencing poverty and homelessness at the organization’s drop-in centers, soup kitchens, food pantry and shelters. 

Preble Street employees sought to unionize to improve services for their clients.  In recent years, there has been high employee turnover in the organization as workers have become burned out and found better paying jobs elsewhere. Clients suffer when there is high turnover.  While Preble Street employees say the work is rewarding, it is also difficult and frontline workers, particularly per diem employees, are underpaid. By forming a union, Preble Street workers have recognized that the best way to improve wages, working conditions and services for their clients is through collective bargaining.
“When we unite, we win! We are thrilled with the overwhelming vote of support this organizing effort received,” said Philippa Adam, who works in the food program at Preble Street. “Now we will finally have the collective strength to secure better wages and improve management’s support and communication so that we can do our jobs better. By getting a seat at the table, we believe that we can make this organization stronger and we are looking forward to starting a new chapter that benefits us as workers, our clients and the communities that we serve.”
 
“The vote was a landslide and we are ready to stand up for ourselves and our clients!” said Leslie Torkelson, who works as a case manager Preble Street’s Veterans Housing Services in Lewiston.
 
The new Preble Street union has formed its bargaining unit and will soon begin negotiating their first contract.

Nurses to Hold Informational Picket at Calais Regional Hospital

More Pro-Labor Victories in Augusta!

Union members have been hard at work lobbying their legislators all spring and their efforts continue to pay off as the Legislature passed another round of pro-labor bills this week. The House and Senate passed LD 1282, dubbed the “Maine Green New Deal,” sponsored by Rep. Chloe Maxmin (D-Nobleboro), which would encourage investment in solar energy while requiring contractors to hire a certain percentage of registered apprentices when constructing grid-scale generation facilities, such as solar and wind projects. LD 1282 now heads to the governor’s desk for her signature.

“This bill is proof that the labor movement and the environmental movement can work together to create policies that support working people and fight climate change at the same time. We are grateful to Rep. Maxmin for engaging with our union early in the process to ensure that this bill is something working people can get behind,” said Grant Provost of South Berwick, Business Agent for Ironworkers Local 7.

The proposal would also direct the Efficiency Maine Trust to secure power purchase agreements for solar capacity to be installed on newly constructed schools. As many Maine employers struggle to find skilled workers, LD 1282 would create a well-trained workforce by gradually requiring that up to a quarter of the workers on large renewable energy installations be trained through registered apprenticeships.

“We have to tackle climate change and economic inequality together. We have to make jobs in the renewable energy sector good jobs with benefits,”  said Jason Shedlock, executive director of the Maine State Building & Construction Trades Council.  “I applaud Rep. Maxmin for incorporating apprenticeship and job training into the green economy to ensure we are properly training the next generation of our Maine workforce.”

Legislature Approves Retirement Security Option for Dispatchers

The Legislature unanimously passed LD 1395, which will give local departments the option of allowing 911 dispatchers to retire earlier under a special state retirement plan. Back in April, dispatchers, firefighters and members of law enforcement testified to the vital role dispatchers play in delivering lifesaving instructions to callers on the phone while ensuring that the appropriate authority arrives on the scene in a reasonable amount of time.

Dispatchers work long hours, including holidays and weekends, in a fast-paced, high-pressure environment where they must make snap decisions that can be the deciding factor between life and death. Congratulations to all of the dispatchers who traveled to Augusta to share ytheir personal stories and advocate for the critical work that they do!

Lawmakers Pass Teacher Collective Bargaining Rights Bill

The Maine House and Senate have narrowly approved a measure (LD 240) that will give teachers the right to negotiate over planning and preparation time. Under current law, educators cannot negotiate anything related to educational policy. This has the effect of limiting negotiations to a few items related to wages and working conditions. We believe that working people deserve the opportunity to negotiate together for good working conditions and we hope Gov. Mills signs this important legislation.

Governor Signs PLA Bill

Gov. Janet Mills has signed LD 1564 which explicitly allows local governments and state agencies to utilize project labor agreements (PLAs) for public works projects if they determine they are in the public’s interest. PLAs are a business model typically used on more complex, time sensitive projects to ensure projects are done on time and on budget with the highest quality of work. They also ensure that contractors don't misclassify workers as independent contractors.

“The use of project labor agreements in public works projects benefit the state, taxpayers and workers. It ensures tax dollars are spent wisely, ensures projects are completed on time and under budget, and ensures that workers are paid fair wages and treated appropriately on the job,” said Senate President Troy Jackson, the bill's sponsor and member of IUPAT 1887. “I’m grateful that the governor has signed this bill into law, and I hope it signals to working Mainers that we are a state that prioritizes quality, safety and fairness in the workplace.”

Commission to Study Racial Inequality

The Maine House and Senate have approved a bill (LD 777) that will create a permanent commission tasked with examining racial inequality. The measure now goes to the governor for her signature. The Maine AFL-CIO supported the bill as a way to secure economic justice for all workers regardless of race.

“For generations, systemic racism and discrimination have prevented people of color from accumulating wealth and securing jobs and housing,” said Cynthia Phinney, President of Maine AFL-CIO. “We have to tackle racial and economic justice together. This commission on the status of racial, indigenous and tribal populations will give us the data and tools to understand the depth of racial disparities in Maine and to craft policies to address them.”

This Commission is modeled after the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women which was formed in 1964.

“Papermaker” & Discussion with WMLC

Join the Western Maine Labor Council for a matinee showing of the play “Papermaker” on Sunday, June 23, at the Norway Grange, 15 Whitman Street in Norway. The humor-laced drama takes place in 1989 and follows the struggles of a union family during the third month of a bitter paper mill strike in a small Maine town. After the show we will have an informal discussion at a local food and drink establishment. Tickets are available here online, $10 for adults and $8 for those over 55.Please RSVP to [email protected]

Ironworkers Going Strong in Maine!

When Grant Provost took over as a business rep for Ironworkers Local 7, there were just 15 members working in Maine. But with construction booming this summer, 80 Maine Ironworkers 7 members are working on projects throughout the state. At the same time, the union has doubled the number of apprenticeships. This is great news for union workers who have long been forced to leave their families and work out of state to earn a decent living.

“If you like working hard and you’re not afraid of heights, you’re interested putting cranes together and doing big work,” said Provost, “give us a call at 207-426-9555!”

110 Years Ago: Maine AFL Endorses Women’s Suffrage

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, guaranteeing women the right to vote. And 115 years ago on June 9, 1909, Maine workers voted nearly unanimously to endorse women’s suffrage at the Maine AFl’s annual convention in Lewiston. Just one delegate spoke out against the measure, but he was “squelched by a powerful speech” from D.G. Richards of Skowhegan, according to the Lewiston Evening Journal.

The resolution stated that the “ best interest of labor require the admission of women to full suffrage citizenship as a matter of justice to them and as a necessary step towards….raising the scale of wages for all.”

“It was practically a solid vote for women suffrage,” noted the reporter, “and thus the suffragists have secured a new, unexpected and most powerful ally to their cause.”

The Maine Federation of Labor later joined a coalition of groups — including the Maine Equal Suffrage Association, Maine Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, the Maine State Federation of Women’s Clubs, the State Grange, the Christian Civil League — to push for passage of the 19th Amendment, which Maine voters eventually approved by a margin of 88,000 to 30,462. on September 3, 1920.