MSEA-SEIU Member Bobbi Bard, an intensive case manager at Riverview Psychiatric Center, tells Governor Janet Mills about the need for more mental health beds in the community. Nearly 200 MSEA-SEIU members and guests talked with the Governor Feb. 20 at our first MSEA Member Forum with Governor Mills.

MSEA Member Forum with Governor Janet Mills — Address understaffing, workloads, healthcare, pay!

Nearly 200 MSEA-SEIU members and guests spoke directly with Governor Janet Mills on Feb. 20 about problems they’re experiencing in delivering quality services to Maine people. From wages to DHHS staffing to rising healthcare costs to retirement insecurity, members asked the Governor to work with them in finding solutions.

MSEA-SEIU members welcome Governor Janet Mills to our MSEA Member Forum on Feb. 20 at Augusta Civic Center. Nearly 200 members and guests participated.

“We are overwhelmed,” MSEA-SEIU Member Bryan Doherty, a child protective services caseworker for Maine DHHS, told the Governor. “It’s getting worrisome because at some point, one of us is going to miss something. This is my plea for help.” The Governor told Bryan she is determined to get all DHHS positions filled. “I concur with you,” she said.

So went our first MSEA Member Forum with Governor Mills. In a packed room at the Augusta Civic Center, the Governor spent an hour answering some of the over 70 questions members submitted. Asked about the recruitment and retention problem in State government, the Governor acknowledged the problem and said she wants to work with State workers on solutions. She mentioned, as an example, making childcare more affordable and accessible for State workers. She noted contract bargaining starts Feb. 25 and that pending legislation calls for a comprehensive study of the Executive Branch compensation system.
The Governor said her administration is filling vacancies, including 95 jobs just posted at DHHS. She mentioned hiring under way at the Department of Education.

MSEA-SEIU Member Laurie Brown, a services coordinator for Child Development Services, asks Governor Mills to adequately support and maintain CDS services. The Governor explained she supports CDS. “It’s a priority of mine, too,” the Governor said, adding she doesn’t have an opinion on controversial legislation that would move certain CDS services into public schools.

MSEA-SEIU retiree members Clough Toppan and Jim Betts both raised issues relating to health and retirement insecurity among state workers and retired state workers. Issues include past freezes to retiree pension cost of living adjustments, the harmful Social Security Offsets, and increasing costs of healthcare. The Governor noted she is familiar with the Social Security Offsets both as a public servant and as a widow; she pledged to work with Maine’s congressional delegation on repealing them.

MSEA-SEIU Member Mark Brunton, a resources coordinator for DHHS, asked the Governor about the contracting out of State services. “As a general rule, I don’t like contracting out,” she responded, adding her administration is closely examining several “substantial contracts” the prior administration signed just before she took office. “We’re looking at a number of them to see if we can bring them back in house,” she said of the contracted services.

MSEA-SEIU President Ramona Welton emceed the forum and posed some of the submitted questions to the Governor. MSEA-SEIU members then asked some questions from the floor. At the end of the night, President Welton gave the Governor a folder full of the submitted questions

MSEA-SEIU Member George Peterson, who works as a correctional maintenance plant engineer at the Charleston correctional facility, asks Governor Mills to address wages as a recruitment and retention tool.

MSEA-SEIU Member Erica Bisson, who works as a child protective services caseworker at Maine DHHS, asks Governor Mills to address issues at the Maine Office of Child and Family Services. The Governor’s response: In addition to filling vacancies, her administration is establishing new leadership at the Office of Child and Family Services and at the Office of Adult and Disability Services.

In closing, the Governor thanked those attending for raising issues directly with her and she stated her interest in meeting with state workers again from time to time.

Updated: February 21, 2019 — 1:57 pm