Protecting Workers During the COVID-19 Crisis


  • Unemployment Insurance Available to Workers Impacted By COVID-19 Crisis
  • Senate Passes Sick Leave Expansion, Cash Payments Likely Coming
  • Unions Demand BIW Close the Yard & Provide Pay for Its Workers During Closure
  • State Workers Call on State to Close Non-Essential Services
  • Helping Those in Need During the Crisis

Unemployment Insurance Available to Workers Impacted By Crisis

Governor Janet Mills at a press conference with CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah.

As the COVID-19 virus forces thousands of workers across the state to stay home, on Tuesday Governor Janet Mills signed an emergency bipartisan bill that expands eligibility for unemployment benefits to people who are affected by COVID-19, but have not permanently lost their jobs. The measure, which will be effective for the duration of the Governor’s state emergency declaration, allows workers to be eligible for benefits if they are under a temporary medical quarantine, are staying out of work on uncompensated leave as a result of COVID-19 or have been laid off as a result of the state of emergency and are expected to return to work once the emergency closure is lifted. 

The new law also waives the one-week waiting period to receive benefits for workers who have been laid off due to the state emergency. Workers who have to take a temporary leave of absence due to a social isolation requirement, a medical quarantine or need to care for a family member as a result of COVID-19 will not be disqualified from receiving UI benefits under the new law. Click here for more information and to file for unemployment.

For more information about unemployment, leave policies and OSHA regulations regarding protections for workers during this pandemic, visit the Maine Department of Labor's official COVID-19 page. Maine Equal Justice (MEJ) has also set up a very useful unemployment FAQ. Here's a video presentation & information on Unemployment & COVID-19 that the Maine AFL-CIO & MEJ held with Commissioner Fortman.

If you have questions or need help with Unemployment call Chris Greenleaf of the Maine AFL-CIO at 207-671-7933 or [email protected]  

Senate Passes Sick Leave Expansion, Cash Payments Likely Coming

This week Congress passed into law an emergency coronavirus relief bill that will provide free testing and paid leave for certain qualified workers. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act includes funding for food security programs, increased funding for Medicaid and state unemployment insurance, and paid sick, family and medical leave for workers at companies with 500 employees or fewer.

The measure would grant two weeks of paid sick leave at 100 percent of the person’s normal salary, up to $511 per day. However, the sick leave portion of the bill also authorizes Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia to exempt businesses with fewer than 50 employees and health care providers like hospitals and nursing homes if they request a waiver. In addition the bill would also provide up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave at 67 percent of the person’s normal pay, up to $200 per day.

Meanwhile Congress is working on an emergency stimulus package that could send two $1,000 checks to Americans and another $300 billion to help small businesses avoid mass layoffs in the coming weeks. Detail must still be worked out and nothing has passed yet.

Unions Demand BIW Close the Yard & Provide Pay for Its Workers During Closure

Photo: Local S6 President Chris Wiers

Leaders of two of the largest unions at Bath Iron Works — IAM Locals S6 and S7— are calling on BIW’s parent company General Dynamics to immediately close the yard and send its 8,000 workers home with regular, full pay in order to comply with social distancing recommendations to contain the deadly COVID-19 virus.

BIW claims that the Navy's timeline is the reason they won't do the right thing and protect our health so on Wednesday, Reps. Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden and Senators Angus King and Susan Collins called on the Trump administration to give shipyards relief from contract obligations during the pandemic. BIW has had infectious disease outbreaks in the past, such is in 1989, whenmore than 570 people tested positive for tuberculosis after one case at Bath Iron Works went undetected for months.                             

Workers Call on State to Close Non-Essential Services, Expedite Telework and provide additional leave

Members of MSEA-SEIU 1989 are calling on the Mills administration to immediately close non-essential services of state government to protect the health of state workers, their families and the general public from becoming exposed to COVID-19. So far, the administration has stated that it will make more flexible use of sick leave available in response to COVID-19 and is working on plans to implement social distancing for state workers.

However, union leaders say the state must also provide additional leave time to employees, ensure that no employees lose health coverage during the crisis and release all non-essential workers among other requests. Click here to tell Governor Mills and the Legislature protect state workers, their families and the public from COVID-19.

During this public health crisis, it’s more critical than ever to look after our fellow Mainers who were struggling even before the pandemic. Preble Street workers (MSEA-SEIU 1989) are on the frontlines of this public health crisis in assisting Maine’s most vulnerable, including Mainers experiencing homelessness. During the best of times, resources for people experiencing homelessness are extremely scarce. Now more than ever they need our support.

To make a contribution please click here: Please note that you are donating to the Covid-19 response.

Other mutual aid groups across the state are also mobilizing volunteers to help our neighbors. If you live in the Bangor area and would like to volunteer to deliver groceries, medicines or other essentials to people in need, please email [email protected]. If you’re in a different region, Food and Medicine will work to connect you with local mutual aid groups in your community.