Right to Strike, Fair Taxation & Support for Stop & Shop Workers!

In this Edition:

  • Right to Strike Hearing
  • Justice for Injured Workers
  • The Fight for Fair Taxation
  • Extending the WARN Act
  • Public Hearings Next Week
  • The Union Barber & the Scab
  • Support for Stop 'n' Shop Workers

Support the Right to Strike!

From West Virginia to Los Angeles and all across the country, we have seen teachers rising up together and going on strike to win critically needed funding for public education. Their collective action is an inspiring workers - and other strikes - around the country to demand more. In some of those states, it's illegal for public sector workers to strike — but they did anyway! That’s the same for public sector workers in  Maine.  

Unlike private sector workers, our brothers and sisters who work in the public sector do not have the fundamental (legal) right to join together and withhold their labor. A bill in the Legislature this session, LD 900would correct this injustice and would give public sector workers the right to strike (the bill exempts public safety workers).

Please consider coming to Augusta on Wednesday April 17th to show your support for LD 900 and expanding the rights of public sector union workers.

Rally and Hearing for Public Sector Collective Bargaining Rights
Wednesday, April 17th at 9:00 am
Registration begins at 8:30 am in the Cross Cafe
State House, Augusta
RSVP: please email [email protected] to let us know if you can attend. Check out the details on MEA's Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/545436182611732/

We are working to win the right to strike and to fix our broken labor laws that permit employers to permanently replace striking workers and lock out workers. Join us!

Justice for Injured Workers 

Maine AFL-CIO testified Monday in support of several bills that would provide support for workers who have been injured on the job. Workers’ compensation laws were originally designed to strike a grand bargain between management and labor. Under the compromise, employers kept their immunity from lawsuits over workplace injuries while workers comp. laws were supposed to provide injured workers with sufficient wage replacement and medical coverage. But over the past several years, corporate lobbyists have successfully chipped away at these protections to boost profits for businesses and insurance companies.

As a result, severely disabled workers have suffered serious injustices as they have been forced to jump through constant hoops to get their due benefits while often living in crushing poverty without even the basic necessities to live. Maine AFL-CIO testified in support of bills that would remove the arbitrary time limit on the duration that permanently disabled workers can collect benefits (LD 1204) and prohibit workers comp. insurance companies from reducing benefits for injured workers collecting retirement (LD 1205).

 During the public hearing, Sherry Nadeau of Belgrade delivered a heart-wrenching testimony about the injustice her husband David has experienced with this broken system. David was working as a concrete yard supervisor in 2003 when his boss, who had been angry at someone else, furiously slammed his pick-up truck in reverse and, without looking, slammed into David. David was knocked up and back over so that he was hyperextended over the tailgate and when the driver hit the breaks, he flew face first into the ground. His back was broken in two places. He had torn stomach muscles, a hernia, a concussion and injuries to his elbow and ribs. He is now permanently disabled.

 David was unable to sue for damages because he was hit by a company truck driven by the owner. Since then, the workers’ comp. insurer has failed to pay for medical treatment, medication, a wheelchair and lift. Sometimes it doesn’t send his weekly checks. He was earning $53,000 a year at the time of his accident, but now his benefits are permanently capped at just under $500 a week. When he retires, the insurer will also be able to take an offset from his Social Security benefits, so they will pay him even less than what they pay him now.

 “A large number of injured employees face foreclosure, repossessions and bankruptcy,” said Sherry Nadeau. “The cost of living has increased 26 percent in the last decade. My husband hasn’t received increases. Things we buy cost 26 percent more, but we’re supposed to make ends meet on the same amount of income for an injury that was of no fault of his own. The employer who ran him over didn’t contribute to all of his Social Security because he worked many other positions. But they’re going to get a benefit from it. It’s not fair.”

 The committee also heard a bill to help the families of workers who have died on the job. Every year, between 10 and 20 people lose their lives on the job in Maine. However, the families of these deceased workers are only allowed to receive death benefits for 500 weeks. There is no justifiable reason for this policy other than as a cost-saving measure. Maine AFL-CIO strongly supports LD 1254, which would remove the 500-week cap on death benefits for the families of workers who have died on the job.

“What possible good does it do to end benefits for the wife and children of a firefighter who died while protecting the public just because 500 weeks expired? Is saving the state money on workers’ comp insurance premiums really worth it if the firefighter’s family doesn’t receive the financial support they deserve?” said Matt Schlobohm, executive director of Maine AFL-CIO. “It’s time for the Legislature to correct this gross injustice for the families of workers who have made the ultimate sacrifice.”

Maine AFL-CIO Supports Tax Fairness

Maine AFL-CIO testified on Tuesday to support LDs 133193 and 444, which wouldfully restore revenue sharing to cash-strapped towns and cities so they can ease property taxes and pay for essential services like police, fire protection, education, libraries and road maintenance. In the last few years the Legislature and previous governors have slashed revenue sharing, forcing towns and cities to make up the difference by either cutting services, raising property taxes and often both. Since 2006, revenue sharing has been shortchanged by nearly $700 million, according to the Maine Municipal Association.

Under current law,  revenue sharing was scheduled to automatically increase to 5 percent starting this July, but Governor Mills’ current proposed budget cuts that number to 2.5 percent in the first year of the budget and 3 percent in the second year. The Maine AFL-CIO believes that the budget should not be balanced on the backs of working people. While the former administration was gutting revenue sharing, it delivered $860 million in tax cuts that primarily benefit the wealthiest Mainers.

“We find it unconscionable to continue to maintain tax cuts to the wealthiest while shifting the costs of essential public services onto the backs of the working class property tax payers and the public servants who provide these services,” said Sarah Bigney of Maine AFL-CIO. “Taken as a whole, the last decade of lost revenue sharing has resulted in a major hit to Maine’s working class. We deserve tax fairness. One significant step this Legislature can take toward tax fairness is to restore municipal revenue sharing to five percent, per statute.”

The Taxation Committee will likely vote on these bills on Wednesday, April 17 at 1 pm. 

Protections for Laid Off Workers!

Mainers have long suffered the traumatic effects of corporate outsourcing. When companies cause mass layoffs by closing down or downsizing facilities like call centers and mills, it deeply harms families and communities. At the same time, many of those same companies have collected generous tax subsidies while shifting operations to countries in Asia and Latin America where labor is cheap and working conditions are poor. It’s time to give Maine workers a fair shake!

LD 201 takes a step in the right direction by extending the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act to require employers with over 100 employees to notify workers within 90 days of mass layoffs. Current law only requires 60 days notice. This bill will:

  •  Give workers time to pursue other job and retraining opportunities while minimizing the time they are unemployed.
  • Allow workers enough time to plan financially for an impending job loss.
  • Give communities time to develop strategies to respond to job losses and lost tax revenue.
  • Provide notice to concerned parties who may want to solicit offers for new ownership and keep the workplace open.

     Please contact your legislators and tell them to support LD 201!

PUBLIC HEARINGS NEXT WEEK

Labor & Housing Committee, Cross Building, Room 202.

Wednesday, April 17, 9 am: LD 900 to give public employees the right to strike with exemptions for public safety workers and  LD 1451 to provide labor unions with reasonable access to current and newly hired public sector workers.

Friday, April 19, 9 am: LD 1410 to provide 12 weeks of family leave and up to 20 weeks of medical leave to Maine workers.

Congressman Golden to Discuss New NAFTA on April 23rd

Join Congressman Jared Golden for a forum on the Trump administration’s revised NAFTA proposal at 6 pm at the United Steelworkers Union Local 900 Hall, 653 Waterville Road in Skowhegan. Much work has gone into trying to fix the agreement, but so far the new one isn’t looking all that good. We’re pleased that Congressman Golden has arranged this forum for constituents to learn and talk with him about his work in Washington trying to make the changes we need. More information will be available in next week’s newsletter.

History Moment: The Union Barber & the Scab

And for our history moment this week, here’s a fun a little tidbit of Maine labor history from the Lewiston Evening Journal dated September 20, 1893:

 On Wednesday a shoemaker who is working in one of the association shops, went into a union barber shop in Auburn to get shaved. After the job was about half done the barber discovered that the man was what the union men term a ‘scab’ and he refused to finish. He wiped the lather from the man’s face and called for the “next.” The man didn’t quite like the idea of going out upon the street in his condition and he told the barber so, but the barber would not listen to him. He sought the protection of the police but was informed that they were powerless in the matter. The barber in question was asked Thursday if the report as above stated was correct and he said it was.

On that note, if you're traveling in Massachusetts, Rhode Island or Connecticut support our brothers and sisters striking for fair treatment at Stop & Shop! And remember, never cross a picket line!