MSEA-SEIU members at the Maine DHHS Office of Child and Family Services in Augusta wore purple June 14 as a growing and strong voice for themselves and the quality public services they provide. Thank you, OCFS workers, for all you do for Maine people.
Our testimony on the OPEGA report “Maine’s Child Protection System: A Study of How the System Functioned in Two Cases of Child Death by Abuse in the Home”
May 31 – Senator Katz, Representative Mastraccio, members of the Government Oversight Committee, my name is Peggy Rice. I am a retired social worker and caseworker for the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. I am speaking on behalf of my union, the Maine State Employees Association, Local 1989 of the Service Employees International Union. My union represents over 12,000 workers and retired workers in Maine, including workers employed by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.
We are here today in support of a comprehensive investigation into the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Marissa Kennedy and Kendall Chick. The care and safety of all Maine children is our primary concern. As such, we encourage the implementation of high quality standards of practice for all workers, including Maine DHHS workers, contractors and mandated reporters who come into contact with Maine children.
Our members who work at Maine DHHS remain extremely concerned about the department’s chronic public employee recruitment and retention problem. The turnover rate among intake workers, assessment workers and permanency workers within in the Office of Child and Family Services (OCFS) within Maine DHHS is high, averaging approximately 60 percent a year, according to our members. Caseloads of OCFS workers and the contracted workers in the Alternative Response Program (ARP) also are high – so high that many DHHS workers we represent say they are completely overwhelmed.
Many of the “potential areas for concern or improvement in the child protection system” listed in the OPEGA report are concerns we share. These areas include, but are not limited to, guidance and training for mandated reporters, a caseload and staffing that allows for timeliness of answering phone calls, timeliness and comprehensiveness of OCFS and ARP assessments of risk, and appropriateness of caseloads and adequacy of supervision and training of OCFS and ARP staff. A revolving staff, coupled with a workforce fractured between public workers and private contractors, can make it difficult to piece together the big picture necessary to keep Maine children safe and to protect them from dangerous situations.
For these reasons, we urge you to do everything within your power to address the public employee recruitment and retention problem at Maine DHHS, and to ensure that all OCFS workers and all other workers in contact with Maine children have the training, tools and support necessary to provide quality public services. Please also ensure that the voice of OCFS workers is heard in both the ongoing investigations and in related policy making. Many Maine DHHS workers we represent feel as if their voices haven’t been heard in management decisions relating to the delivery of child-protective services. They want to ensure high quality standards of practice are implemented at every turn. Thank you.
MSEA-SEIU members who are canvassers for the Maine People’s Alliance agree: America Needs Union Jobs.
SEIU’s Henry: Working people shouldn’t have to sign their rights away just to have a job
May 21 — SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry issued the following statement on the Supreme Court’s decision in Epic Systems v. Lewis et al on whether employment contracts can legally prohibit employees from participating in class-action lawsuits against their employers:
“Many working people in our country will tell you that it’s intimidating to stand up to their employers and fight for their rights, especially when they have to stand alone. Today, the Supreme Court has made it more difficult, if not impossible, for working people to use our legal system to fight against unlawful employer policies like wage theft, unequal pay and other forms of discrimination.
“No person working in the United States should have to sign away their rights just to have a job. This is what happens when unscrupulous employers and special interests are allowed to rig the system against working people by forcing them, as a condition of employment, to give up their basic right to stand together.
“This case goes to the heart of why unions are important for our nation’s workforce. When working men and women join together in unions, they are empowered not only to fight against unlawful employer practices but also to bargain for better pay and benefits. Too many people are working longer hours for lower wages. We should be making it easier for working people to stand together, not harder.
“SEIU members are more determined than ever to hold employers accountable and to fight for jobs that give working people a chance to provide for their families, achieve the American dream, and live and retire with dignity. Today’s decision allowing abusive employer agreements is a step in the wrong direction.”
MSEA-SEIU members who work for York County Government ratify contract
On May 15, MSEA-SEIU members who work for York County Government ratified their tentative contractual agreement with management.
MSEA-SEIU stewards show their solidarity April 30 at our MSEA-SEIU Statewide Steward Skills Training Program.
82 MSEA-SEIU steward stregthen their skills
Eighty-two MSEA-SEIU stewards converged on Augusta Civic Center April 30 for our 2018 MSEA-SEIU Statewide Steward Skills Training Program. MSEA-SEIU President Ramona Welton welcomed the stewards and recognized longtime retiring MSEA-SEIU Steward Ray Heathco for his service to our union and the people of Maine. Ray, who retired the same day as a human services enforcement agent for Maine DHHS, said he will remain active in our union as a retiree member.
President Welton introduced new MSEA-SEIU Director of Organizing and Field Operations Angela MacWhinnie. Seventeen new stewards participated in our “Stewards 101” course. More experienced Stewards took courses in addressing problems in grievance investigations, representing members at grievance step meetings, and resolving a grievance without ever filing one.
All stewards joined in a presentation relating to the Legislature’s role in contract funding and quality public services. The presentation included a question-and-answer session with State Senator Roger Katz, Maine House Assistant Democratic Leader Jared Golden, and MSEA-SEIU Director of Politics and Legislation Mary Anne Turowski. Stewards also heard from MSEA-SEIU Retiree Member and State Rep. Donna Doore.
All stewards also participated in a Chief Stewards presentation titled “Building Solidarity One Conversation at a Time.”
MSEA-SEIU Retiree Member and State Rep. Donna Doore reads about excavator operator Martin Qualey of Benedicta, one of 17 Maine workers who died on the job in 2017.
Remembering the 17 Maine workers who died on the job in 2017
Maine workers and retired workers gathered April 27 for the Maine Labor Group on Health’s Worker’s Memorial Day Breakfast to remember the 17 Maine workers who died on the job or from occupational illnesses in 2017. They held a moment of silence for those 17 workers, Somerset County Sheriff’s Cpl. Eugene Cole, who was shot to death on April 25, 2018, and Christopher Pineau of Fayette, who died March 3, 2018, while maintaining a log-yard crane.
Maine Labor Group on Health Board Member Peter Crockett read the names of the 17 Maine workers who died in 2017 (learn more about in the photo essay here):
- Richard “Butch” Clark
- Richard Charest
- Patrick Graham
- Ronald Hemingway
- Nathan Desjardin
- Martin Qualey
- Joseph Robinson
- Joseph Lawlor
- Jeffrey Abbott
- James Meserve
- James I. Brooks
- Gregory Hutchinson
- George Gorman
- Bruce Hebert
- Bruce Wing
- Brandon Henderson
- Alexander Witt
“We’re here for them, for the people we know as well who know the families. We share their pain,” Linda Doran, director of the Maine Labor Group on Health, said during the group’s annual Worker’s Memorial Day Breakfast at the Maine AFL-CIO headquarters in Augusta.
“Not one more,” the workers at the breakfast chanted.
Throughout our nation, 100,000 workers died in 2016, the most recent year statistics are available. They include 5,190 workers who died from on-the-job-injuries and 95,000 who died from occupational illnesses, according to Marcy Goldstein-Geld, co-executive director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, the parent organization of the Maine Labor Group on Health
“In addition to grieving those losses, we share the anger of the families who were told it was a freak accident and due to human error,” Goldstein-Geld said, explaining her group has looked closely into worker deaths and has found employers repeatedly failed to listen to workers who alerted them about worksite dangers. Instead of responding to and addressing hazards, she said, employers responded by ignoring safety orders, firing workers, demoting workers or reporting them to immigration authorities.
“To flout safeguards, that’s inhuman and that’s neglect,” she said.
She called on all workers to demand justice and noted her organization is supporting scores of justice efforts of families whose loved ones have died on the job. Demand that elected leaders at the state and national levels strengthen and protect worker protections, she urged those at the Worker’s Memorial Day Breakfast. “With a collective bargaining agreement, you can speak up for health and safety without being fired or shown the door.”
A delegation from the Maine Bureau of Labor Standards joined the workers in the remembrance ceremony: Bureau Director Danny Bolduc along with Steve Greeley, Amanda O’Leary, Victor Tardiff, and Hank Diplock.
Pending Janus Decision
Well-funded corporations and some politicians are trying to take away rights from workers and their unions. One such attempt is the anti-worker Janus v. AFSCME lawsuit pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. The Janus lawsuit is part of an effort to rig the economy against working people. Watch this four-minute video about Janus.
First in a series of member profiles: Bob Galloupe and Kerem Gungor began their public service in Maine State Government nearly a half century apart, Bob in 1971 as a driving license examiner, Kerem in 2016 as an environmental engineer for the Maine DEP. Their public service and determination to have a voice in their pay, benefits and working conditions led both of them to join the Maine State Employees Association. As we celebrate our 75th anniversary year, the stories of these two members, Bob and Kerem, symbolize the many generations of workers our union has represented and advocated for since MSEA formed in 1943. Read their stories here.
Protected: Jobs at Child Development Services
With our support, the Legislature’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee on April 4 stopped the administration’s plan to eliminate Child Development Services within two years and shift the services it provides to 3-through-5-year-olds onto Maine’s public schools.
Instead, committee members voted 8-3 to create a task force examining the delivery of CDS services. The amended legislation, LD 1870, calls for this task force to include a Child Development Services staff member who provides direct services, appointed by the Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives. This legislation faces additional votes in the Legislature as well as a likely veto by the Governor.
The workers at Child Development Services are experienced, knowledgeable and dedicated to the children and families they serve. Special thanks go to those MSEA-SEIU members who testified March 26, as private citizens, against the administration’s proposed elimination of CDS. At the hearing, parents, advocates for children and others joined us in testifying against the administration’s legislation eliminating Child Development Services. The administration’s proposal would have radically restructured how Maine families with newborns through age 5 access a range of services they have a right to receive.
MSEA-SEIU Area II Retirees Chapter meetings
All MSEA-SEIU Area II Retirees Chapter meetings are at MSEA-SEIU headquarters, 65 State St., Augusta, unless otherwise noted.
- July/August: No meeting
- September: Annual meeting, location to be announced; notice to be sent
- Oct. 1: 10 a.m.
- Nov. 5: 10 a.m.
- Dec. 3: 10 a.m., followed by potluck luncheon and optional Yankee swap.
MSEA is ME
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MSEA-SEIU Fall 2018 Regional Steward Skills Training Programs. Registration begins at 8 a.m. Training runs from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.:
- Tuesday, Sept. 11: Portland, Clarion Hotel, 1230 Congress St. Portland, ME 04102
- Wednesday, Sept. 19: Bangor, Spectacular Event Center, 395 Griffin Road, Bangor, ME 04401
- Thursday Sept. 20: Presque Isle, Northeastland Hotel, 436 Main St, Presque Isle, ME 04769
- Tuesday, Sept. 25: Augusta Civic Center, 76 Community Drive, Augusta, ME 04330
Attention all MSEA-SEIU members: Welcome to SEIU Member Benefits, a new online benefit program exclusively for SEIU members. Go to seiumb.com for details.
At seiumb.com you can take advantage of a range of benefit programs – everything from insurance and credit cards to discounts on travel and everyday items. We’re proud to bring you this assortment of great benefits at no cost or obligation – just for being a member of MSEA-SEIU Local 1989.
Go to seiumb.com to see how the buying power of millions of SEIU members can help you:
Manage finances: Get competitive rates on everything from credit cards to personal loans;
Protect your family: Benefit from group rates on a growing portfolio of insurance products;
Cut your cost of living: Get special discounts at thousands of stores and favorite merchants;
Travel for less: Enjoy specially negotiated rates and travel programs.
There’s no cost or obligation. Get started today by registering at seiumb.com and then keep going back to see new benefits. You also can sign up at seiumb.com for emails to be the first to know when new benefits are added.
Seventy five years ago, on March 18, 1943, about 200 state workers converged on the State House around a common purpose. As public servants, they knew they needed a voice in their jobs and in their pay, benefits and working conditions. They formed the Maine State Employees Association and began advocating for each other and the work they do.
Back in 1943, state workers had no employment contracts. They didn’t have health insurance. There wasn’t any pension system, either. Yet those founding MSEA members were united in their resolve to advocate for each other and the public services they were providing.
Their hard work and perseverance culminated in 1974 when state workers secured the right under state law to collective bargaining. By 1989, MSEA members recognized they needed to be part of something bigger to advocate effectively for public services, good jobs, affordable healthcare, and retirement security. So they voted to affiliate with the Service Employees International Union, our over 2-million member international union. We’ve been known as MSEA-SEIU Local 1989 ever since.
Time and time again, we have shown we are Stronger Together. Read the rest of President Welton’s column here.