As most of you are aware, the last several weeks have seen challenges to labor unions in Wisconsin, Ohio, and yes – Maine! The core issue being debated really comes down to the right of employees to join together and collectively bargain for wages, benefits and working conditions. While those who oppose the right of unions, event the existence of unions, proclaim that their motivation is economical as they try to balance state budgets, the reality is their motivation is to reduce and even eliminate the rights of employees to collectively bargain.
In Wisconsin, the labor unions essentially agreed with the wage and benefit concessions that the Governor was requesting to balance the budget, however, that wasn’t enough for the Governor. He continued to pursue legislation that would deny public employees the right to collectively bargain! The same is true in Ohio.
Here in Maine, lawmakers have proposed several legislative actions that are intended to limit or reduce collective bargaining in the State. Governor LePage has proposed a budget that essentially puts a 2% personal income tax on teachers and state employees as well as cutting benefits for retirees for a cost of $203 million. While the Governor says these cuts are needed to balance the budget, he also proposes giving almost the same amount that he is charging public employees ($200 million) back to businesses in tax cuts. The changes proposed by the Governor result in the average teacher salary in Maine, already ranked a very low 44th in the country, to an even lower 49th in the country!
Without question labor unions, and more importantly the employees who make up those labor unions, are currently under attack by the Governor. There are several things that you can do to help in the efforts of the labor unions, including the MEA, to fight these attacks and defend hard working employees:
- Attend the Maine AFL-CIO Labor Lobby Day in Augusta on March 22, 8:00 am. You will be provided with guidance on how to lobby your state legislators before heading out in small groups to speak to your elected officials. If you are interested in participating, contact your local chapter rep to see if other members at your campus are also planning to attend so that we can coordinate/car pool. You can find a listing of your chapter reps at www.acsum.org
- If you can’t attend the Labor Lobby Day, be sure to “Wear Red for Public Ed” on March 22 in support of public education.
- Visit the NEA website: www.educationvotes.org and click on Maine on the map to learn what the NEA and MEA is doing to fight the attacks on labor and to get a better understanding of the issues. You can also sign the petition in support of public education.
- Contact your local legislators and ask them to support public education and public employees and stop the attacks on labor unions. You can find a link to your local legislators at www.educationvotes.org
- Be a delegate at ACSUM’s Delegate Assembly on Saturday, April 23rd in Brewer. In addition to electing new officers for ACSUM, we will be having a workshop/panel discussion with AFUM and UMPSA to talk about all the issues facing labor unions and public education and ways that we can be proactive in protecting both! For more information on being a delegate, contact your local chapter who can be found at www.acsum.org
ACSUM will continue to monitor the situation along with the MEA and will keep you updated on any new developments that happen as well as any additional “call to action” requests.
State President, ACSUM