Weekly Update: Pro-Labor Victories in Augusta!

IN THIS EDITION:

  • Legislative Update: Pro-labor victories
  • Calais Nurses in Contract Fight
  • State Employees (MSEA SEIU 1989) Rallying for Fair Contract — Sat. June 22
  • Race & Economics Workshop in Lewiston — Sunday July 21
  • State Green New Deal Passes Maine House!
  • Mainers Rally for Tax Fairness

Legislature Passes Several Pro-Labor Bills; More pending

In recent weeks, we’ve won some important pro-worker victories in the Legislature, but much will be decided in the final days of the session. Governor Janet Mills today signed a critical piece of legislation that will ensure loggers and wood haulers finally have the same rights as other workers to bargain collectively. As so-called "independent contractors," loggers have long been prohibited under the Sherman Anti-Trust Act from banding together to bargain collective over rates, benefits and working conditions. Without that right, they have been forced to accept unfair contract rates for their services.

LD 1459 will correct this injustice by providing an exemption to anti-trust laws, allowing loggers to form cooperatives and demand better wages and working conditions. This law will provide woods workers the same collective bargaining rights as potato farmers and lobster fishermen, who have been given anti-trust exemptions to form their own cooperatives.

CWA 1400 got a bill signed into law to improve notification for workers when large facilities close or move out of state. ATU 714 organized for several years and just won a "Yield to Bus" bill to improve public transportation and public safety. We are on track for improvements in revenue sharing for our communities and are hopeful that legislation to allow loggers to organize will become law in the coming days.

Many bills are still in process — we continue to push to improve the workers compensation system, strengthen public sector bargaining rights by making arbitration binding on economic issues and winning the right to strike, improve retiree healthcare programs for firefighters and first responders and secure workers’ rights on renewable energy projects to address climate change.

The Maine Building Trades have passed a number of bills through the House & Senate to prevent wage theft, promote safe workplaces, ensure workers are paid fair wages and support Project Labor Agreements. LD 1524 would protect workers from wage theft by providing them with stronger legal remedies. LDs 1658 and 1386 would ensure workers get paid fairly on taxpayer-funded construction projects.

LD 1564 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. All of these bills will soon head to Gov. Mills’ desk.

To see how your local legislator voted on these important bills, just click the LD numbers above!

CRH Employees, Community Hold Vigil for Patient Safety

                                      Calais Regional Hospital employees at a community vigil on May 23.

Over 100 members of the community showed up to support Calais Regional Hospital (CRH) employees in downtown Calais on May 23 as part of a vigil to highlight a variety of concerns, including the future of patient care and the treatment of hospital employees

Employees say that poor working conditions have resulted in trouble with worker recruitment and retention, as well as a loss of longtime workers, who have left for other jobs — impacting patient care conditions, according to the Maine State Nurses Association. In recent months, hospital management decreased the amount of planned, earned, paid time off (or “PEP”) for all non-union employees.

“It broke our hearts to see management cut into the time that people had earned. It’s no wonder that morale is so low and that people are leaving our hospital,” said RN Anne Sluzenski. “Of course, now they’re trying to take PEP away from the union employees, too, but we’re fighting hard to keep it. We know that poorer conditions for employees will mean poorer conditions for patients.”

Employees say they are also fighting for contract language that will provide safe limits to the amount of patients that can be assigned to nurses as one time, and for more accountability and transparency from management.

Race & Economics Workshop in Lewiston — Sunday July 21

Please join us to evaluate a program developed by the National AFL-CIO about the connections between racial inequality and economic inequality on Sunday, July 21, from noon to 4 pm at IBEW 567, 238 Goddard Road, Lewiston. The AFL-CIO is developing a new “Race and Economics” module for their Common Sense Economics program and is trial-running it to solicit feedback before it is finalized.

We’ll gather for an informal lunch together at noon and the program will begin sometime near 1 pm. Lunch will be provided. After the program we’ll spend about a half hour evaluating the module and offering feedback. Our fledgling A. Philip Randolph Institute​ (APRI) chapter, along with Southern and Western Maine Central Labor Councils are sponsoring the program.  Please RSVP by clicking here so we have a good meal count and adequate room setup!

State Employees RALLYing for a Fair Contract — June 22

 

Our brothers and sisters in Maine State Employees SEIU 1989 will be holding a rally at the State House on Saturday June 22, at 10 am to demand a fair contract for executive branch state employees. Recruitment and retention challenges for state employees have reached crisis levels after years of austerity and while the Mills’ administration has recognized the problem, it still has not put any raises on the table. Please join us in supporting public sector workers on June 22 at 10 am at the State House! Please RSVP to [email protected] if you can attend.

State Green New Deal Passes Maine House!

The Maine House voted 84-55 to pass the state Green New Deal, which will not only fight climate change, but also reduce income inequality and create high-quality renewable energy jobs for working class Mainers. LD 1282 would require that 80 percent of Maine’s electricity come from renewable energy sources by 2040 while ensuring that these jobs are skilled and pay living wages with benefits.

The measure would also create a well-trained workforce by requiring that up to a quarter of the workers on large renewable energy installations be trained through state and federally-approved apprenticeships. This is excellent news not only for the environment, but also for Maine workers! The bill faces further votes in the House and Senate.

Mainers Rally for Tax Fairness

Mainers rally for a fair budget on Thursday. Photo by Taryn Hallweaver.


Maine AFL-CIO joined Mainers from across the state on Thursday in calling for a state budget that prioritizes tax fairness. The Legislature’s Appropriations Committee is expected to soon reach a deal on the state biennial budget, but we are concerned that the final version will preserve tax cuts for the very rich while once again shortchanging cities and towns of revenue needed for property tax relief, roads, public safety and education.

These tax breaks include the estate tax, which only benefits the children of multi-millionaires. It’s time for a budget that supports working Mainers and not just the wealthy heirs and heiresses of the 1 percent. If you haven’t already, please contact your local legislators and tell them to make the wealthy pay their fair share for the services we all enjoy.