Statement by MSEA-SEIU President Dean Staffieri on today’s order by Governor Mills on COVID-19

March 31, 2020

Dean Staffieri, president of the Maine Service Employees Association, Local 1989 of the Service Employees International Union, released the following statement in response to today’s order by Governor Mills relating to COVID-19:

The over 12,000 workers represented by the Maine Service Employees Association, SEIU Local 1989, call on Governor Mills to apply the same rules she announced today to the very same worksites she oversees as Governor: State of Maine worksites.

Governor Mills says non-essential Maine workers should stay home, yet many State of Maine workers whose jobs are not directly related to responding to the COVID-19 crisis are being required to report to work as usual.

Over the past two weeks, hundreds of state workers have written to Governor Mills about their concerns about being required to report to work to crowded offices with adjacent cubicles, at Maine DOT worksites lacking adequate personal protective equipment like hand sanitizers, and at other worksites where they fear exposure to COVID-19.

Workers are scared. They’re extremely concerned the Governor’s own managers are refusing to inform employees about suspected or potential exposure to coronavirus unless there is a confirmed positive test result in their workspaces. We have encouraged the Governor’s management to treat every suspected case as a potential positive and to give workers as much notice as possible, particularly in light of the nationwide shortage of tests, but to date they have not agreed to do so.

We call on Governor Mills to take these immediate actions to protect State of Maine workers, their families and the general public from exposure to COVID-19:

1) Provide additional paid sick leave to all state workers across the board so they can take care of themselves and their families during this unprecedented time;

2) Address the myriad issues arising from the COVID-19 outbreak, including releasing workers who can telework, and do so immediately. The administration has indicated teleworking is an option. Many workers say they’re ready to telework; however, they report their managers haven’t yet let it happen;

3) Release non-essential state employees for a limited period of time, with pay, until the Governor can assure their safety and the safety of the public.

4) Provide priority testing for health care workers and essential state employees to keep their families and the people who rely on their services safe.

As one of Maine’s largest employers, the State of Maine should lead by example to protect the public health and the state workforce. The State of Maine should make a priority of minimizing the COVID-19 exposure risks of Maine’s emergency-service providers so they are best positioned to care for Mainers in need. Doing so also would reduce the likelihood of Maine’s precious medical resources becoming overwhelmed. We believe taking the immediate actions above will go a long way toward protecting all Mainers from COVID-19.


Updated: March 31, 2020 — 5:45 PM