Respect us, protect us, pay us

IN THIS EDITION

  • Tell Governor Mills to End the Pay Gap for State Employees
  • Want to Have Us Do a PRO Act Presentation at Your Next Union Meeting?
  • President Phinney to Discuss Unions & Democracy on WERU FM
  • Maine AFL-CIO Backs Bill to Require Public Employers to Bargain in Good Faith
  • Pro-Labor Legislation Moving Forward
  • The Making of Maine’s Working Class

Governor Mills: End the pay gap for State Employees

MSEA-SEIU members rally for a fair contract in Augusta.

State employees (MSEA-SEIU 1989) are in the middle of contract negotiations with Governor Mills' administration and they need our support as they push for fair wages and a fair contract. A recent independent market pay study found that state workers earn nearly 15 percent less than their private and public sector counterparts throughout New England, even after adjusting for regional differences in pay. Hundreds of state employees continue to earn under $15 an hour. 

Currently, the Governor and the Legislature are working on a supplemental budget as state revenues are expected to increase over $900 million above expectations, exceeding pre-pandemic levels by $141 million. Additionally, Maine is slated to receive nearly $1.65 billion in state and local aid money through the American Rescue Plan signed into law by President Biden. 

Yet despite the pay study's findings, despite the vastly improved state revenue projection and despite the pending infusion of massive state and local aid, management proposed NO WAGE INCREASE whatsoever for the life of the contract. There is clearly enough funding to properly compensate state employees for the valuable services they provide. 

Please sign this petition and tell Governor Mills to compensate state employees fairly and eliminate the pay gap.

Do You Want to Have a PRO Act Presentation at Your Next Union Meeting?

Have you heard of the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act? We’re building a movement to pass this truly transformative piece of legislation that would strengthen workers' right to form unions and win strong contracts.  Could we come give a short presentation at your next union meeting, stewards training, apprenticeship class or community group meeting? Please let us know! 

We have developed an engaging and informative presentation on the PRO Act where we cover all aspects of this legislation and how it will greatly empower working people to stand up for our rights at work. For more information and to schedule a presentation please email [email protected]

President Cynthia Phinney to Discuss Unions & Democracy This Friday on WERU FM

Maine AFL-CIO President Cynthia Phinney

Maine AFL-CIO President Cynthia Phinney will appear on the radio program “Democracy Forum” for a discussion titled “Democracy and Unions: Do They Need Each Other?” this Friday, May 21, from 4 - 5pm on WERU FM 89.9. Phinney and special guest David Madland — a senior fellow and the senior adviser to the American Worker Project at the Center for American Progress and author of the new book, Re-Union: How Bold Labor Reforms Can Repair, Revitalize, and Reunite the United States — will discuss the historical and contemporary link between labor organizing and expanding political rights like voting. 

Democracy Forum is a program of the League of Women Voters-Downeast and can be streamed online at weru.org.

Maine AFL-CIO Backs Bill to Require Public Employers to Bargain in Good Faith

Teachers with the Maine Education Association at the State House in 2020.


The Maine AFL-CIO testified Monday in support of a bill (LD 677) that would encourage good-faith negotiations in public sector employee contract bargaining by making the arbitration process binding on economic issues like wages, insurance and retirement. 

Current laws are tilted against public sector workers. In the public sector, if the parties can’t reach a contract, there is a process that involves mediation, fact-finding and then arbitration. But under Maine law, arbitration is binding on all issues except for economic issues. As a result, even after an arbitration, public employers can simply impose their original offer on workers. 

Public workers also lack the legal right to strike. The lack of binding arbitration and the right to strike stacks the table against workers. This has contributed to the wage gap between public employees and workers at private companies doing the same job.  The Labor and Housing Committee will likely vote on this bill in the coming days.

Other Pro-Labor Legislation Moving Forward

Maine House of Representatives chamber.


As the Maine Legislature’s Labor and Housing Committee wraps up work for the session, several important pieces of pro-labor legislation are getting moved to the floor of the Maine House and Senate.

On Monday, the Labor and Housing Committee voted 8-4 to advance LD 1656, sponsored by Rep. Rebecca Millett (D-Cape Elizabeth), which would direct the Maine State Housing Authority to spend $100 million to build approximately 1,200 energy-efficient affordable housing units over the next two years. In addition to helping address the state’s affordable housing crisis, it would also raise working standards for construction trades and expand Maine’s registered apprenticeship programs by requiring Project Labor Agreements.

“By setting labor standards through Project Labor Agreements, Maine taxpayers will not only know that they are getting a quality project completed on time and on budget by a responsible contractor, but one that’s contributing to Maine’s future by empowering the women and men who will be building our state for years to come,” said Jason Shedlock, regional organizer for the Laborers’ International Union of North America.

The committee also voted on party lines to support LD 1231, sponsored by Rep. Scott Cuddy (IBEW 1253, D-Winterport), which will help address climate change while creating high quality clean energy jobs by requiring payment of prevailing wages, the use of registered apprenticeship programs, equity in hiring and encouraging the use of Project Labor Agreements on renewable energy construction projects. 

On Monday, the State & Local government committee voted on party lines to recommend passage of LD 875, sponsored by Sen. Joe Baldacci (D-Penobscot Cty.), which would discourage privatization of public services by requiring contractors to meet several criteria proving that privatization is in the public interest before receiving a contract to take over duties previously handled by state employees. Previous state privatization schemes have been disastrous as the state has often hired low-road private contractors that perform shoddy work and cut corners by hiring low-wage, non-union labor. 

Finally, the State and Local government Committee voted on party lines to pass Senate President Troy Jackson’s “Buy American Build Maine Act” (LD 1411), which would require state construction projects using manufactured goods valued over $500 — including iron, cement and steel — to procure American-made materials whenever possible.

New History Column Series: “The Making of Maine’s Working Class”


The birth of Maine’s Labor Movement can be traced back to the 1830s when Maine workers fiercely resisted the changes being forced upon them by industrialization and merchant capitalism. 

As part of a new series in Mainer Magazine, Maine AFL-CIO Communications Director Andy O’Brien and Will Chapman, librarian and archivist at the Bethel Historical Society, will be exploring the birth of the Maine Labor Movement, from the founding of the Charitable Mechanics Association, the first waves of strikes at the shipyards and textile mills, the founding of the first unions and labor parties and the fight for shorter work days, universal public education, fair taxation and more.

You can read the latest monthly installment, “The Making of Maine’s Working Class: The Charitable Mechanic Association,” here.