Summary of Maine AFL-CIO Scored Bills
So called “Right to Work” laws are designed to weaken unions and drive down wages and working conditions. Under such laws, workers can contribute nothing to a union, yet gain all the benefits and full representation.
Currently in Maine, unions and employers can negotiate contracts where all workers who benefit from a collective bargaining agreement share in the costs of bargaining and representation. Under federal law, no worker is required to join a union, but unions have a duty of fair representation to represent all workers in a bargaining unit, whether they are members or not. LD 65 would make it illegal for employers and employees in both the public and private sector to agree that all workers who benefit from a collective bargaining agreement share in the costs. The Legislature defeated this bill with bipartisan opposition.
Workers use payroll deductions for a variety of purposes – charitable donations, bill and loan payments and paying dues to their union. This process for paying union dues is efficient, used routinely and is subject to bargaining. LD 66 would have forbid union members from paying dues in a 21st century manner – through payroll deduction. This bill was another attempt to weaken unions by making it more difficult to operate.
This bill would have required most public sector unions to hold recertification elections every two years about whether the local union should continue to exist. Unions already have regular elections for officers, stewards and other roles and members vote on union contracts and important decisions.
This bill is the equivalent of holding state elections every two years not about who should represent us in the State Legislature or Congress, but about whether we should have a State Legislature or Congress at all, whether we should have a representative form of government at all. This bill is unnecessary, disruptive and insulting to worker’s intelligence and autonomy. It is little more than a politically motivated effort to weaken unions.
In November of 2016, Maine voters passed Question 2 at the ballot. Question 2 asked “Do you want to add a 3% tax on individual Maine taxable income above $200,000 to create a state fund that would provide direct support for student learning in kindergarten through 12th grade public education?”
After passage of Question 2, corporate CEOs and the wealthy hired lobbyists to convince legislators to overturn the will of the voters. The Maine AFL-CIO supported the House and Senate budget votes scored here that respected the will of the voters and upheld the tax fairness portion of the referendum by keeping the 3% surcharge on income above $200,000 in law. We are deeply disappointed that the will of the voters was ultimately overturned and that the wealthiest 2% in Maine were given a massive tax break.
Too often veterans returning to the workforce cannot attend necessary medical appointments because they do not have sufficient sick leave or vacation. Military service comes with risks, and we believe that integrating back into the workforce shouldn’t come at the expense of a veteran’s physical and mental health.
LD 1441 was brought forward by union veterans. The bill would have made it easier for veterans to attend medical appointments at VA medical facilities by guaranteeing either leave or paid sick time. Unfortunately, the Governor vetoed this bill and the House of Representatives did not override the Governor’s veto.
Transit bus drivers who are members of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 714 brought forward LD 591. When a transit bus pulls over to drop off or pick up riders, they often have a difficult time re-entering traffic because motorists do not let them back onto the road. This is dangerous because cars attempt to speed past buses and the drivers often have to slam on their brakes, which has resulted in injuries to passengers and motorists. It also causes the bus to fall behind schedule, which is bad for working people who depend on public transportation to run on time.
LD 591 would have given right of way to a transit bus that indicates it is merging back into traffic, requiring motorists to yield. Despite bi-partisan support, Gov. LePage vetoed the bill and the Senate failed to override the veto. Members of ATU 714 worked very hard to pass Yield to Bus and will be back in the future to try again.
Firefighters are getting cancer at rates significantly higher than the general public, and it is directly linked to the burning toxic chemicals they breathe in when fighting fires. These toxic flame retardants are used in upholstered furniture, but have been proven to not actually slow the spread of fires. LD 182 bans the sale of upholstered furniture in Maine that contains these toxic flame retardants beginning in 2018.
The Professional Firefighters of Maine mobilized hundreds of their members, and the bill passed with wide margins in both chambers. Although Governor LePage vetoed LD 182, the Legislature sided with the firefighters and overrode the veto.
The Maine AFL-CIO developed and supported the minimum wage referendum because the costs of housing, food and other necessities have gone up for years while wages have remained stagnant. In November of 2016, more than 420,000 Mainers – 56% of voters – voted to raise wages for working families, tie increases starting in 2021 to the cost of living, and phase out the subminimum minimum wage for tipped workers.
Unfortunately, some legislators tried to overturn the voter approved referendum. LD 1609 would have lowered the minimum wage approved by voters and eliminated the annual cost of living adjustment to the minimum wage. LD 673 repealed the voter approved part of the referendum that ensured tipped workers a regular base wage plus tips. LD 673 passed the Legislature and was signed into law by the Governor. LD 1609 died between the House and Senate.
The collective bargaining process seeks to address the fundamental power imbalance between a large employer and an individual worker. For that system to work there needs to be a fair set of rules. Current public sector labor law tilts the rules against workers by not allowing public sector workers the right to strike and by not having binding arbitration on economic issues in the public sector. This means that even after an arbitration decision a public sector employer can simply impose on economic issues.
This bill sought to level the bargaining playing field by making arbitration binding on economic issues like salary, insurances and retirement. This would improve bargaining and outcomes for all.
Responsible contracting laws require that publicly funded construction projects meet certain community benefit standards - such as participation in registered apprenticeship programs to train the next generation of our workforce, following state prevailing wage rates to ensure fair pay, implementing local hire provisions to benefit our community as well as mandating a contractor’s proven and clean record on law compliance – in an effort to protect the state’s investment in our people along with promoting high quality construction and development.
LD 1382 established responsible contractor requirements for publicly funded construction projects that receive state funds in excess of $50,000. The bill passed along party lines in the House and failed in the Senate.