Save Hotel jobs | Solidarity w/ MDI Teachers & More

IN THIS EDITION:

  • IBEW 567 Has its Largest Class of First-Year Apprentices Ever!
  • Maine AFL-CIO Tells Hilton to Save Union Hotel Jobs
  • Support MDI Teachers Fighting for a Fair Contract
  • MSEA Member Katie Duncan Wins "Shop Steward of the Year" Award
  • Volunteers & Sponsors Needed for 19th Annual Solidarity Harvest
  • Build Back Better bill Provides Funding for Good Union Jobs
  • Voting is Open for Next Labor Reading Group Selection
  • Discussion of John Neal’s 1831 “Call to Labor” — November 15th

IBEW 567 Boasts One of the Largest Classes of First-Year Apprentices Ever!

IBEW 567 just welcomed one of the largest classes of first-year apprentices in the history of the local this fall. The number of first-year apprentices has nearly doubled since 2020 as a boom in solar investments has created an intense demand for union workers. About 80 percent of first-year IBEW 567 apprentices are currently working on solar projects across the state as contractors are utilizing favorable solar incentives passed by the Mills administration in 2019.

“The money is definitely there,” said Justin Walsh, the Training Director for IBEW 567. “We have some jobs where they’re paying journeymen $10 over scale and they’re offering anywhere from $50 to $80 for a per diem because it’s so busy. And they’re working overtime. That kind of money was unheard of when I was an apprentice.”

IBEW 567 apprentice Kilton Webb says pursuing an apprenticeship is an excellent to get into a career pathway without incurring any debts. He said installing solar has been an excellent opportunity for young people to learn the trade and reduce carbon emissions.

"Solar is a great way for someone who is just trying to break into the trade because a lot of it is just plug and play. It's pretty simple," said Webb. "With these solar fields, you're often putting up thousands, even tens of thousands of panels, so it's a lot of repetition, which is good because you learn through repetition."

Walsh said he receives several calls a day from people interested in the apprenticeship program. He added that the local also plans to get the apprentices working on some larger industrial projects next spring to give them a variety of experiences in the trade.

“It’s really, really busy right now and we’ve got a lot of stuff on the horizon,” said Walsh. “A lot of it is solar driven right now, but we also have some good sized projects coming this spring like the Maine Medical Center expansion, work on University of Southern Maine’s dorms and another potentially large project in Portland. There’s a lot of work coming forward and it’s looking real good.”

Maine AFL-CIO Tells Hilton to Save Union Hotel Jobs

The Maine AFL-CIO has sent a letter to Hilton Hotel executives asking the global hospitality chain to cease its attempts to lay off thousands of union employees in order to increase profit margins. Hilton has announced that it will eliminate automatic daily housekeeping, convert full-service dining outlets to grab-and-go, and make other changes that will impact service and union jobs. 

In the letter to CEO Chris Nassetta and CFO Kevin Jacobs, Maine AFL-CIO President Cynthia Phinney noted that unions often book events at Hilton because of its quality service that the hotel’s heavily unionized staff provides. Unions spent $103 million at the hotel chain in 2018 and 2019.

“Hotel rooms should be cleaned every day,” wrote Phinney. “That is the standard of service we expect from a hotel. Travelers say cleanliness is a top priority in poll after poll; guests want their hotel rooms cleaned every day like they always have been, and we should not have to request this standard service at a full-service hotel.”

Research by UNITE HERE shows that ending daily housekeeping would slash jobs and make housekeepers’ workloads even more painful, because rooms are much dirtier after days without cleaning. They estimate that ending this practice would eliminate up to 39 percent of all U.S. hotel housekeeping jobs and cost housekeepers – overwhelmingly women of color – $4.8 billion in annual lost wages.

“This cynical betrayal of Hilton workers will not be easily forgotten by the labor community, and we will actively educate our members in the about this issue,” Phinney concluded. "We review our business agreements annually and will be watching what happens at Hilton very closely.”

Support Mount Desert Island Teachers Fighting for a Fair Contract


Teachers on Mount Desert Island are in the midst of extremely challenging negotiations and have been working without a contract since September. In the coming weeks members of the MDI Teacher’s Association/MEA are planning a series of actions to pressure the administration of AOS 91 — which comprises the towns of Tremont, Trenton, Mount Desert, Bar Harbor, and Southwest Harbor — to agree to a fair contract.

“We’re really not that far apart in our offers and all we’re asking is for the employer to come back to the able and work this out with us,” said teacher Dan Horning, the union’s chief negotiator.

The main area of contention is that the total value of the MDI teachers’ compensation, including salaries and health insurance, is lower than what teachers receive in “similarly-situated schools” that have comparable tax valuations and school demographics. As real estate prices soar in coastal communities, MDI teachers say they need to be paid enough to continue to work in the area.

Using a comparison study of similar schools that AOS 91 commissioned, MDI teachers presented a proposal that would move the teachers’ compensation toward parity with teachers in similar districts within three years, but without actually reaching that level. However, the school board’s first proposal was for a one-year contract. It provided raises for teachers, but not enough to cover the current cost of living increase and did not bring them closer to the salaries of teachers in similar districts. The school board’s proposal also did not include any change in health insurance coverage for teachers, which falls significantly short of other school districts in the state. 

After presenting just two proposals, the district filed with the Maine Labor Relations Board for a mediation and fact finding, despite the willingness of the teacher negotiation team to work with the board to reach a mutual agreement.

“We believe that the district triggered mediation and fact finding way too early,” said Horning. “Our efforts have been trying to just bridge the divide at the table because we’re confident we can all reach a settlement that will bring us closer to closing the compensation disparities with similarly situated schools, but in a way that will not significantly add to the tax burden."

MDI teachers have worked hard through the pandemic under very challenging conditions and they deserve our support. Here are ways you can support them:

  • Show up at future MDI rallies to show solidarity for the teachers. (Watch the MDI Teachers’ Facebook page for details)

MSEA  Member Katie Duncan Wins "Steward of the Year" Award

Congratulations to Maine Service Employees Association SEIU 1989 member Katie Duncan — an audiologist at the Maine Educational Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing/Governor Baxter School for the Deaf — who was presented with this year’s "Shop Steward of the Year" Award at our Biennial Convention last week. Katie has been an employee of the school for eight years and is in her fourth year as a shop steward, where she has gained a reputation for truly caring about her coworkers, bringing members together and empowering them to fight together for fair contracts and better working conditions. 

During recent contract negotiations, Katie showed courage and persistence in winning important gains for members. In Katie’s nomination statement, MSEA staffer Tim McGuire wrote:

“Katie leads by example and is a powerhouse of a worksite leader. She was instrumental in bringing solidarity at Baxter School. During this recent six-month, bare knuckle contract fight she helped recruit three new stewards, signed up dozens of coworkers as new members AND helped lead several collective actions at her worksite. Katie checks every box a union organizer could hope for and is literally one of the best damned steward I have ever worked with.”

Congratulations, Katie! You are an inspiration to us all.

Volunteers & Sponsors Needed for 19th Annual Solidarity Harvest

Every Thanksgiving, Food AND Medicine — with support from the Eastern, Western, Central and South Maine Labor Councils — puts together wonderful Thanksgiving meal baskets for laid off union members and other families who have fallen on hard times. Each basket contains nearly 30 pounds of produce — enough food for 8-10 people.

In another week, volunteers will begin assembling 1,500 food baskets for the 19th Annual Solidarity Harvest to distribute throughout Maine. 

Food AND Medicine is once again seeking volunteers to sort, weigh, assemble and deliver baskets. COVID safety protocols will be followed and volunteers must be fully vaccinated against the virus to participate.

CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP FOR VOLUNTEER SHIFTS

Another way to show your solidarity is to Sponsor a Meal. All donors will also be acknowledged on printed materials that will be included with the meal boxes.

The only way this annual project happens is because of volunteers and donors and we know this really means a lot people who are struggling during the Thanksgiving holiday. For more information please contact Melissa at foodandmedicine dot org or call 207-989-5860. 

Build Back Better Bill Creates Union Jobs; Strengthens Childcare, Homecare  & Education

The White House has released its framework for a compromise on the Build Back Better plan, which provides funding for clean energy union jobs, affordable child care, home care for elderly individuals and people with disabilities, free preschool for every 3- and 4-year old, affordable housing and more. It also strengthens the right to organize unions and includes key parts of the Protecting the Right to Organize Act. 

"This is an important step toward making historic, overdue investments in working people and good union jobs," said AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler in a statement. "The reconciliation framework is a pro-worker victory: child care, home care, clean energy jobs, health care, tax fairness, immigration improvements and support for worker organizing. This framework, together with the bipartisan infrastructure bill, is exactly the type of progress working families need as we carry our country out of the COVID-19 pandemic."

The framework would set a target of cutting green house gas emissions by 50-52% below 2005 levels by 2030 — in a way that creates good-paying union jobs. The proposal would create the single largest investment in our clean energy economy across buildings and transportation in Maine history. On Wednesday, House leaders also put back in four weeks of paid family and medical leavein the package, though it remains to be seen whether there are enough votes in the Senate to pass that portion.

Read more about the White House framework here.

Voting is Open for Next Labor Reading Group Selection

The Maine AFL-CIO Labor Reading Group is in the process of voting on which book to choose next. You are invited to fill out this form and let us know which book you prefer. We only ask that you attend our discussions if your pick is selected. The choices are: 

  • “The Mind at Work: Valuing the Intelligence of the American Worker” — “Author Mike Rose demolishes the long-held notion that people who work with their hands make up a less intelligent class. He shows us waitresses making lightning-fast calculations, carpenters handling complex spatial mathematics, and hairdressers, plumbers, and electricians with their aesthetic and diagnostic acumen. “The Mind at Work” explores the intellectual repertory of everyday workers and the terrible social cost of undervaluing the work they do.”
  • Low Wages and Other High Crimes — Retired NALC 391 member John Curtis, a longtime Maine-based labor activist, wrote this short anthology of vignettes profiling 28 incidents in the history of labor where workers banded together to improve working conditions and wages. The book is well written and shows the impact of direct action at work in various legal and organizing contexts.
  • Labor's Mind: A History of Working-Class Intellectual Life by Tobias Higbie — “Business leaders, conservative ideologues, and even some radicals of the early twentieth century dismissed working people's intellect as stunted, twisted, or altogether missing. They compared workers toiling in America’s sprawling factories to animals, children, and robots. “Labor's Mind” uses diaries and personal correspondence and labor college records  to recover this social history of the working-class mind. As Higbie shows, networks of working-class learners and their middle-class allies formed nothing less than a shadow labor movement. Dispersed across the industrial landscape, this movement helped bridge conflicts within radical and progressive politics even as it trained workers for the transformative new unionism of the 1930s.”
  • The Next Shift: The Fall of Industry and the Rise of Health Care in Rust Belt America — “Author Gabriel Winant takes us inside the Rust Belt examine how a new working class has emerged in the wake of deindustrialization. Unlike their blue-collar predecessors, home health aides and hospital staff work unpredictable hours for low pay. Today health care workers are on the front lines of our most pressing crises, yet we have been slow to appreciate that they are the face of our twenty-first-century workforce. "The Next Shift" offers unique insights into how we got here and what could happen next. If health care employees, along with other essential workers, can translate the increasing recognition of their economic value into political power, they may become a major force in the twenty-first century.”

Meetings of the Labor Reading Group are currently held on Zoom from 5:30 to 6:30pm on the fourth Thursday of each month, or occasionally other times or dates. Readings are chosen by the group and discussions are facilitated by group members or occasional special guests. For more information contact cynthia at MaineAFLCIO dot org.

Join Us for an Online Discussion of Famed Maine Writer John Neal’s 1831 “Call to Labor” — November 15th

On Thursday, January 13, 1831, John Neal delivered a rousing speech titled a “A Call to Labor” to the Maine Charitable Mechanics Association, in which he appealed to working people to use the ballot box to take to better themselves and take back the levers of power.

On November 15th at 7pm on Zoom, the Maine Charitable Mechanics Association will be holding a discussion with Andy O’Brien of the Maine AFL-CIO, Marc Cryer of the Bureau of Labor Education and John Neal biographer Dugan Murphy about Neal, the 1831 address, its context, and its relevance to the current moment. Click here to register!

“Look into your legislative halls—go into your courts of justice,” Neal told the audience at Mechanics Hall. “Have you three legisla­tors, three judges, three governors and three presidents, for every one legislator, one judge, one governor, and one president elected by the other fourth part of our free population? You are three times more numerous than all the oth­er electors of our country; and yet — how few are ye in the national or state councils, in the distribution of trust and office, in the ranks of power and privilege. And as for the worth of your votes—depend upon it, there is no such equality as you may suppose between your vote, and the vote of the privileged class.”  

Nearly 200 years later, this address is still relevant in many ways: its a plea to labor to seize power through the ballot box and to elect labor representatives, to foster a lifelong love of learning, and to encourage the next generation to enter the trades.

As the Maine Historical Society describes him, “Portland’s John Neal (1793-1876) epitomized the spirit of 19th century Maine. In his long life he was a boxer, novelist, gymnist, publisher, architect, quarryman, attorney, phrenologist, pro-feminist and America’s first art critic. In 1827, after living in England, Neal settled in his home town, founded the acclaimed, but short-lived, literary magazine, the ‘Yankee,’ and helped stimulate an artistic climate that flourished through the Civil War.”