“Income Protection is the reason I was able to stay home for weeks after my sons were born,” said MSEA-SEIU Director and Hancock Chapter Treasurer Miranda Wilson, who works for Maine DHHS in Ellsworth. Miranda is shown with her sons, Dennis and Carter, from left.
Together, workers can win
Both MSEA-SEIU members and nonmembers are receiving the April 13 edition of our union’s newspaper, the Maine Stater. Take a look inside the Stater to read about and see MSEA-SEIU members:
- Negotiating your next contract;
- Building support in the Maine Legislature to fund the work you do for Maine people;
- Fighting back against the administration’s proposed layoffs of at least 265 state workers, and the administration’s proposal to eliminate at least 208 vacant positions;
- Defending the retirement security of current and retired state workers and teachers from the administration’s proposed two-year freeze to the retiree cost of living adjustment;
- Asking legislators to respect the will of Maine voters by keeping their hands off Maine’s minimum wage law, and by keeping their hands off Maine’s surcharge affecting Maine’s wealthiest residents.
MSEA-SEIU members understand an active, engaged and informed membership is needed to advocate effectively at the bargaining table, in your worksite and in the Legislature. If you are a service fee payer, you are currently in nonmember status. MSEA is a member-run organization. The more active members we have, the stronger we are.
MSEA-SEIU members make all the decisions. Only MSEA-SEIU members can:
- Vote on whether to approve a new contract;
- Receive direct bargaining updates;
- Serve on the bargaining team;Participate in member benefits such as the MSEA Income Protection Plan.
If you currently are a nonmember, now is the time to join so you can begin utilizing your rights. Join today to make your voice heard in your pay, your working conditions, and your health and retirement security. Also be sure to check your mailbox for important information about the May 2017 Open Enrollment in the popular MSEA Income Protection Plan.
MSEA-SEIU members who participate in the Income Protection Plan protect their income during injuries or illnesses. Open Enrollment is your rare opportunity to get this affordable protection regardless of your medical history.
By signing up for Income Protection TODAY, you can take advantage of the Income Protection Plan rate reduction effective July 1, 2017. The Income Protection Open Enrollment Period runs from May 1 through 31. Applications must be received or postmarked no later than May 31, 2017.
“Keeping Maine’s highways and bridges safe is hard work. It’s a team effort. As union members, we make sure everyone is treated fairly and with respect,” said MSEA-SEIU Steward and bargaining team member Shawn Kelley, who works for Maine DOT Down East.
26 new union stewards unleashed
At our 2017 Statewide Steward Skills Training Program April 19, we unleashed 26 new union stewards in our worksites. Seated from left: Maryann Griffin, Sherry Jo Sweetser, Amanda Ward, Thomas Lamontanaro, Clara Alvarez, Travis Lawson, Kim Davis, Brian Markey and Cody Sullivan. Standing in middle row from left: Peter Baker, Sean Farnsworth, Jason Rifenbart, Shawn Kelley, Glenn Jalbert, Rebecca Fournier, Carolyn Noble and Leisa Hall. Standing in back from left: Jordan Berube, Stephen Breden, Bob Henderson, Erick Thompson, Patti Roberts, Nick Plummer, Robby Perkins, Jeremy Rackliffe and Michelle Mehler.
MSEA-SEIU members testify in support of student-debt relief
MSEA-SEIU members Nickole Wesley and Jonathan French testified in support of LD 1123, “An Act To Allow an Income Tax Deduction for Interest Paid on Student Loans.” Jonathan and Nickole are part of the MSEA Rising group advocating for issues impacting workers under age 40. They are shown with Taxation Committee Senate Chair Dana Dow and LD 1123’s sponsor, Senator Mark Dion. See below for the Maine Legislature Senate Democratic Office’s news release about LD 1123.
DION BILL WOULD HELP PROVIDE RELIEF FROM STUDENT LOAN BURDEN
AUGUSTA — A bill to provide student debt relief to Mainers, introduced by Sen. Mark Dion, D-Portland, received a public hearing April 19 in the Legislature’s Taxation Committee.
The bill — LD 1123, “An Act To Allow an Income Tax Deduction for Interest Paid on Student Loans” — would double the maximum income tax deduction from $2,500 to $5,000 and raise the maximum eligible income thresholds by $15,000 for individual filers to $65,000 and by $30,000 for joint filers to $130,000.
“In recent years we’ve gotten better at making sure students entering college do so with a clearer picture of how much debt they can reasonably take on and helping them make smart financial decisions about where to go,” said Sen. Dion. “But there are still too many former students who weren’t given that advice and counseling and have burdensome amounts of debt.”
The average student loan debt for recent graduates in Maine is nearly $30,000, the fourteenth highest rate in the nation. More than 10 percent of student loan borrowers in Maine are defaulting on those loans. Of the borrowers who are staying on track to pay back their loans, many are doing so at the expense of not participating in other sectors of the economy or stages of their lives. They’re delaying the purchase of a home or a more reliable car, putting off marriage, or waiting to have kids.
At the federal level, the income thresholds are $80,000 and $160,000, respectively, and the deduction is also $2,500.
Jonathan French, a civil engineer with the MaineDOT Highway Program used his vacation time be able to speak in favor of the bill before the Committee. As a 2002 college graduate, he does not qualify for the Opportunity Maine tax credit, and other relief programs in existence don’t make sense given his specific loan burden.
“This legislation, however, would give me some relief,” said Jonathan. “It may not seem like much… but every little bit helps.”
LD 1123 faces further action in the Taxation Committee and votes in the House and Senate.
Executive Branch Bargaining Team —
Members of the MSEA-SEIU Bargaining Team for the Executive Branch of Maine State Government include, seated from left, Glenn Jalbert, Michael McCormick, MSEA-SEIU President Ramona Welton, MSEA-SEIU Vice President Dean Staffieri, Andrea Lapointe and Tom Maher. Standing from left are MSEA-SEIU Deputy General Counsel and Chief Negotiator Anne Macri, Chuck Dame, Dean Levasseur, Tracy Bonnevie, Cindy Proulx, Shawn Kelley, Debra Stowe and Dave Projansky. Not shown is bargaining team member Maureen Sullivan.
Executive Branch bargaining —
More union proposals to the State
Dear MSEA-SEIU Member,
Your bargaining team passed across more union proposals to the State April 7, 10 and 11. The State has responded to and countered some of our proposals but still hasn’t offered any proposals of its own. In responding to our proposals, the State has indicated that it is not interested in giving State employees increased leave time. The State also made a presentation on SOMER, the new employee payroll system.
Bargaining continues April 24 and 25. Please wear purple on those days in support of your bargaining team. We expect to hear more information about the State’s proposals by April 25.
In Solidarity, Your Bargaining Team:
- Professional-Technical Services Bargaining Unit: Andrea LaPointe, Tom Maher and Michael McCormick
- Administrative Services Bargaining Unit: Tracy Bonnevie, Cindy Proulx and Debra Stowe
- Operations, Maintenance and Support Services Bargaining Unit: Glenn Jalbert, Shawn Kelley and Dean Levasseur
- Supervisory Services Bargaining Unit: Dave Projansky, Maureen Sullivan and Chuck Dame
- Ramona Welton, MSEA-SEIU President
- Dean Staffieri, MSEA-SEIU Vice President
Executive Branch bargaining —
Curious about bargaining? Sign up for updates!
We are sending out bargaining updates to members’ home email addresses. If you aren’t receiving the bargaining update, that means we probably don’t have your home email address. To receive future bargaining updates, please provide us with your home email address using this official MSEA-SEIU link on our website.
In Solidarity, Your Bargaining Team
Retiree members! Join us May 30 for MSEA-SEIU Retirees Day
There are many reasons to join MSEA-SEIU Local 1989 as a retiree member. In addition to helping to advocate for your retirement security, our retiree members get to participate in the Annual MSEA-SEIU Retirees Day.
Members of the MSEA-SEIU Retirees Steering Committee invite all MSEA-SEIU retiree members and their guests to our 30th Annual MSEA-SEIU Retirees Day Tuesday, May 30, at Augusta Civic Center, Upper Level, North Wing.
Registration runs from 8 to 9 a.m. and the program will begin promptly at 9 a.m., continuing until 1:30 p.m.
Registration cards will be mailed out in late April. The Civic Center is accessible to all; ramps and an elevator are available.
In addition to reports by MSEA-SEIU President Ramona Welton and MSEA-SEIU Executive Director Rod Hiltz, our Retirees Day program will include the latest news and developments relating to our legislative agenda, the Maine Public Employees Retirement System and the State Employee Health Plan. Sandy Matheson, executive director of the Maine Public Employees Retirement System, will make a presentation, as will Christine Burke, executive director of the Maine Division of Employee Health and Benefits.
Maine Attorney General Janet Mills is scheduled to speak as well.
We also invited the Governor, Maine’s congressional delegation, Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon and Maine Senate President Michael Thibodeau to speak at Retirees Day.
Representatives of several agencies or groups will join us at Retirees Day to provide information and answer questions. These include the Maine Public Employees Retirement System, the Maine Division of Employee Health and Benefits, Aetna, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield of Maine, Delta Dental, the Maine Alliance for Retired Americans, the Maine Senior College Network, and the Silver Sneakers exercise program.
Also at Retirees Day, the Retirees Steering Committee will present our 5th Annual MSEA-SEIU Lifetime Achievement Award.
Respect the will of Maine voters, MSEA-SEIU retiree Jim Betts urges legislators
Statement to the Taxation Committee opposing LDs 291, 337, 571, 829 and 851 on 3/20/17
Senator Dow, Representative Tipping, and members of the Taxation Committee, My name is Jim Betts. I’m a retired state employee with the Department of Labor, a property taxpayer living in Winthrop, and a veteran. I urge you to oppose LDs 291, 337, 571, 829 and 851.
All of these legislative proposals undermine the will of Maine people. On Nov. 8, 2016, Maine people voted in a 3 percent surcharge on incomes over and above $200,000. It’s deeply troubling that some legislators think they can continue ignoring the will of Maine voters for yet another state budget cycle. Voters knew their schools were not being funded fully by the state and that they were picking up the tab in the form of property tax increases, and voters understood clearly the question and its results, to suggest otherwise is disrespectful to Maine voters.
Maine people enacted the surcharge so all Maine children, regardless of ZIP code, can have access to a solid public education. The state’s failure to fund education at 55 percent for the past 12 years as required by law has made it difficult for Maine students to gain the education they need to compete for tomorrow’s jobs, and pushed more and more costs of running public schools onto property taxpayers like my wife, Martha, and me. We support our schools – our children and grandchildren are or were educated in the public schools. We voted for the surcharge because the state’s failure to fund public education at 55 percent has forced our hometown of Winthrop, along with most communities in Maine, to make difficult choices: Cut school programs or services, or raise property taxes?
Personally, I have been able to offset these pressures the last year and a half by working part-time as a carpenter, but my asthma and rheumatoid arthritis are making it hard to continue and, my wife, a former employee of the Maine CDC, suffers from multiple sclerosis. She cannot compensate for these proposals before you today. All of the proposals would revert Maine back to the failed system of relying on property taxes to fund public education.
Maine voters had no choice but to take it upon themselves to come up with a mechanism to get the state to fund public education at 55 percent. Please respect the will of Maine voters by opposing these legislative proposals. Please do it for our children, our families, local businesses, and our elderly struggling to pay their property taxes. Thank you.
The Judicial Branch Coalition Bargaining Team
In the Judicial Branch of Maine State Government, MSEA-SEIU members in the Administrative, Professional and Supervisory services bargaining units are negotiating in coalition for successor contracts to the ones expiring June 30, 2017. Seated from left are Supervisory Services Bargaining Unit Team Captain Ronda Nelson, Administrative Services Bargaining Unit Team Captain Lisa Morgan and Professional Services Bargaining Unit Team Captain Robyn Saucier. Standing from left are Supervisory Services Bargaining Unit team members Laurie Pratt and Darlene Richards; Administrative Services Bargaining Unit team members Andy Frechette, Nickole Wesley, Samantha Turcotte and Darcey Emery; and Professional Services Bargaining Unit team members Janette Cook, Claire Bell and Curt Lefebvre.
Maine workers, retirees urge Maine Legislature’s Appropriations Committee to oppose Part HH of LD 390
MSEA-SEIU retiree member Andy Vellani: “I really hate to say this, but here we are again. Another attempt by this administration to take away something that retirees have worked so hard to earn. This is getting old. I’m getting old…er. We shouldn’t have to continually fight year after year to help us keep pace with the cost of living. This administration’s attitude and actions against retirees does not promote progress and economic security, but produces stagnation and atrophy in our economic health which affects the entire Maine community.”
On March 8, MSEA-SEIU members urged the Maine Legislature’s Appropriations Committee to oppose Part HH of LD 390, the Governor’s proposal to freeze for two years the cost of living adjustment (COLA) to the pensions of retired state workers and teachers.
We reminded the committee members that the 125th Maine Legislature imposed enormous pension cuts July 1, 2011. Those cuts included: increasing the retirement age to 65 to state workers and retired teachers who had less than five years of service as of July 1, 2011; freezing cost of living adjustments (COLAs) to retiree pensions for three years (2011, 2012 and 2013); and the capping cost of living adjustment (COLA) to retiree pensions at up to 3 percent, based on the cost of living adjustment, of the first $20,000 of pension income.
Retired state workers and teachers haven’t been able to catch up with the cost of living since then. The proposal to freeze the retiree COLA for two more years would make it even harder for retirees to keep up with the cost of living. It’s unconscionable that anyone would even consider causing this level of harm to retirees.
There is no funding crisis in Maine State Government. In fact, in the Supplemental Budget approved by the Maine Legislature last month, the Legislature added $35 million to the state’s Rainy Day Fund. Freezing the cost of living adjustment for two more years would be just plain wrong.
Attention MSEA-SEIU Members!
We rely on you to keep us apprised of any changes to your status, your position and your contact information. Accordingly, please contact MSEA-SEIU Systems/Database Administrator Lynn Warner at 622-3151 ext. 1131 or firstname.lastname@example.org to update us whenever the following information changes:
- YOUR CONTACT INFORMATION: Please let us know of any changes to your mailing address, your personal or work email addresses, or your home, cell or work phone numbers.
- YOUR POSITION: Please let us know of any changes to the number of hours you are regularly scheduled to work each week, your work location, or your position, including changes through promotion, demotion, transfer or reclassification.
- YOUR SEASONAL PAYROLL STATUS: If you are a permanent seasonal employee, please contact us to let us know when you go on or off payroll. Under our Constitution and Bylaws, permanent seasonal employees may maintain active member status while off payroll by paying dues at the retiree rate. This allows seasonal employees to continue to serve as chapter officers and delegates, to participate as delegates in our Annual Meeting, and to vote in contract ratification votes even while off-payroll. As of January 2017, the retiree dues rate is $5.05 per month. If you go off payroll, Lynn can help you make the payment arrangements necessary to maintain your active member status.
Thank you for your attention. It is your responsibility to provide us with accurate and up-to-date information. Failure to do so could affect your ability to participate in union matters, as well as your rights under your contract, Constitution and Bylaws.
Members of our union have gone through several turbulent months working to reduce the harm the Governor’s proposed state budget would cause Maine people.
Your coworkers, retirees, staff and allies have been testifying before legislative committees and asking their state senators and state representatives to reject the Governor’s bad budget. Together, we have been asking legislators to start with the current baseline budget and build from there. There is still a lot of work to be done. Each of us has a role in making sure the Legislature passes a responsible state budget. Read President Welton’s column here.