At their chapter meeting, MSEA-SEIU members at the Maine Turnpike Authority celebrated the defeat of LD 1779.
Two victories on Feb. 6; help keep them coming
Dear MSEA-SEIU Member,
Feb. 6 was a good day for working families and retirees at the State House. After listening to you, your coworkers and others, two legislative committees cast bipartisan, unanimous votes defeating bad legislation that would have harmed our members and quality public services:
The Transportation Committee voted “ought not to pass” on LD 1779, which would have required all-electronic tolling at the Maine Turnpike’s York plaza and all other turnpike plazas as they are rebuilt or replaced. LD 1779 could have eliminated the jobs of 25 fare collectors at the York plaza and it could have led to the elimination of the jobs of all 145 fare collectors on the turnpike. This legislation could have jeopardized the $15 million in annual cash fare collections at the York plaza. Thanks go to the Maine Turnpike Authority members and other MSEA-SEIU members who asked the committee to oppose LD 1779.
The Appropriations Committee voted “ought not to pass” on LD 1509, which would have further singled out and penalized State of Maine retirees. This legislation would have prohibited State of Maine retirees who retire at normal retirement age after Sept. 1, 2011, from returning to public service in Maine for as long as they draw a pension from the state retirement system. Thanks go to the MSEA-SEIU members, both working and retired, who asked the committee to oppose LD 1509.
Please help keep the momentum for working families and retirees going. Join me Tuesday, March 13, at the State House in Augusta for the Maine AFL-CIO Labor Lobby Day. Advocate with fellow union members in support of quality public services, working families and retirees. Register here.
Labor Lobby Day begins with registration at 7:45 a.m. and training at 8 a.m., both at the Cross Office Building Cafeteria. Show your support for pro-worker legislation. Let your State Representative and State Senator them know where you stand. Thank you and I look forward to seeing you March 13.
President, MSEA-SEIU Local 1989
Update Feb. 5 —
Legislative committee makes bipartisan recommendation to keep Downeast Correctional Facility open
On Feb. 5, the Maine Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee voted in support of an amended LD 1704 funding the Downeast Correctional Facility in Machiasport beyond June 30, 2018. While this bipartisan vote is an encouraging development, additional legislative action will be needed to keep Downeast Correctional Facility open.
Funding for Downeast Correctional Facility will run out June 30, 2018, unless the Legislature acts to pass LD 1704. Presented by State Rep. Will Tuell and cosponsored by 27 other legislators, the bipartisan LD 1704 would keep Downeast Correctional Facility open. LD 1704 would require the Department of Corrections to report back no later than April 1, 2019, on any proposed changes to the facility. The report would have to identify any impacts on employee compensation and benefits, any correctional facilities and their communities, and the economy. We will follow up with new developments.
Don’t gut Maine’s minimum wage law
Jan. 24 — Senator Volk, Representative Fecteau, members of the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee,
We respectfully urge you to oppose LD 1757. Two years ago, many members of our union signed the citizens’ petitions and helped collect over 90,000 signatures of Maine voters to put the referendum question raising Maine’s minimum wage on the November 8, 2016, ballot. Maine voters overwhelmingly voted to raise Maine’s wage. The law resulted in Maine’s first minimum wage increase in eight years. Over 100,000 Maine workers got a raise in 2017 when the wage increased to $9 under the law. Another 59,000 workers got a raise earlier this month when the wage increased to $10, also under the law.
Many of our members who work as publicly funded personal care assistants, or direct care workers, are directly benefiting from the law. These include the workers we represent at Home Care for Maine, a publicly funded agency providing direct-care and personal-attendant services to Maine seniors and Mainers with disabilities. Last fall, our union signed an agreement with management of Home Care for Maine providing our bargaining unit members at Home Care for Maine with a $1 an hour pay raise – a raise that became effective with their Nov. 24, 2017, payday. This raise was necessary because some Home Care for Maine workers were earning less than $10 an hour last year. Just think about that for a minute – some home care and direct care workers in Maine were doing this difficult and deeply personal work last year for less than $10 an hour, all to help Maine people live as independently as possible in their own homes.
Many home care workers, including our members who work at Home Care for Maine, don’t get any benefits as part of their employment contract. They don’t get health insurance. They don’t get sick time. They don’t get vacation time. They don’t get retirement benefits, either. Their paycheck is all they have to help them catch up with the rising cost of living.
Yet under LD 1757, Maine’s minimum wage would be cut to $9.50. Future minimum wage increases would be cut in half, to 50 cents a year. There wouldn’t be any indexing of the wage after 2020. The wage would be cut for workers under age 18. It would also be cut for workers ages 18 and 19 in their first three months of employment. All of these schemes are the wrong way for Maine to go.
Even with this year’s increase to $10, Maine’s minimum wage remains the second lowest in New England. The wage in Massachusetts is $11. In Vermont, it’s $10.50. In both Connecticut and Rhode Island, it’s $10.10. If it weren’t for New Hampshire, which sticks to the federal minimum of $7.50, Maine’s wage would be the lowest in New England.
Please keep Maine moving forward, not backward. Please vote no on LD 1757.
Our testimony in opposition to LD 1509, An Act to Prohibit Retired State Employees and Teachers From Returning to Work While Collecting Retirement Benefits
On Jan. 23, we testified in the Maine Legislature against ill-conceived legislation that would prohibit State of Maine retirees who retire at normal retirement age after Sept. 1, 2011, from returning to public service in Maine for as long as they draw a pension from the state retirement system. Read our testimony below:
Senator Hamper, Representative Gattine, members of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee,
We urge you to oppose LD 1509. Current state law already places multiple restrictions on State of Maine retirees who retire and then return to public service in our great state. LD 1509 would further penalize State of Maine retirees. This legislation also would continue to exempt the roughly 22 million other retired workers who have private-sector or other governmental pensions. Those 22 million workers already can retire in Maine and work in public service without experiencing any of the restrictions imposed on State of Maine retirees.
Here is what current state law requires for State of Maine retirees who retire and then return to public service: First, State of Maine retirees must have reached their normal retirement age. The normal retirement age varies under the law. It’s age 55 under special retirement plans covering certain law enforcement officers. It’s ages 60, 62, or 65 for everybody else. Second, State of Maine retirees must work for 25 percent less than what a non-retiree earns doing the same work. Third, State of Maine retirees are subject to a five-year cap on the amount of time they can return public service. Fourth, they cannot retire one day and return to service the next; there’s a 30-day waiting period.
Because of those requirements, few State of Maine retirees return to public service. Yet LD 1509 would further single out and penalize State of Maine retirees. It would prohibit State of Maine retirees who retire at normal retirement age after Sept. 1, 2011, from returning to public service in Maine for as long as they draw a pension from the state retirement system. Please oppose LD 1509.
Our testimony opposing legislation to lease out and contract out the operations and maintenance of the state-owned Colonial Pemaquid State Historic Site in Bristol
Testimony of Mary Anne Turowski, Maine State Employees Association, SEIU Local 1989, before the Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture, Conservation And Forestry, January 16, 2018, in Opposition to LD 1739, Resolve, Authorizing the Lease of the Colonial Pemaquid State Historic Site
Senator Davis, Representative Dunphy and members of the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee,
Under this legislation, the State of Maine could lease out and contract out the operations and maintenance of a National Historic Landmark, the State of Maine-owned Colonial Pemaquid State Historic Site in Bristol, to a nonprofit organization. We represent the state workers who operate and maintain the Colonial Pemaquid State Historic Site with the highest level of accountability to Maine people. This legislation could result in the elimination of their jobs, ultimately resulting in layoffs.
Maine’s state historic sites and state parks are invaluable public resources. They draw record-breaking numbers of visitors year after year. Maine residents ages 65 or older are admitted free provided they show proof of age. Everyone else can either pay an admission fee onsite or, if they purchased one, show a Maine State Park Pass at applicable locations. While a Maine State Park Pass is valid for admission at the Colonial Pemaquid State Historic Site, some state-owned parks or sites that have become subject of public-private partnerships for their operations and maintenance don’t accept Maine State Park Passes for admission. These include Scarborough Beach. We are concerned that under LD 1739, public access to the Colonial Pemaquid State Historic Site via a Maine State Park Pass could be restricted or disappear.
We do want to recognize the good work of the Friends of Colonial Pemaquid, the volunteer, nonprofit organization that potentially would lease, operate and maintain the Colonial Pemaquid State Historic Site under this legislation. The members of Friends of Colonial Pemaquid have shown through their advocacy over the past 25 years that they care deeply about the Colonial Pemaquid State Historic Site. While we appreciate their dedication and determination to protect and preserve the Colonial Pemaquid State Historic Site, we strongly believe Maine’s state parks and state historic sites, including the Colonial Pemaquid State Historic Site, are best protected and maintained by State of Maine workers who are directly accountable to Maine people. Your due diligence is critical in assessing whether turning over the operations and maintenance of a state resource to a third party is in the best interest of Maine citizens. We respectfully urge you to oppose LD 1739.
The two-year state budget covering July 1, 2017, through June 30, 2019 –
MSEA-SEIU members made the difference
Thanks to your testimony and expertise, state legislators approved a two-year state budget that ensures quality public services for Maine people:
PROTECTS THE RETIREE COLA
The state budget puts over $8.3 million more a year into the pockets of eligible retired state workers and retired educators by rejecting the Governor’s proposed two-year freeze on the retiree cost of living adjustment (COLA).
As a result, the Maine Public Employees Retirement System (MePERS) Board of Trustees on Aug. 10 approved a 1.6 percent COLA increase effective this month for eligible retirees.
If a retiree gets a full pension base of $21,474, the 1.6 percent COLA increase this month will result in a $28.63 monthly increase and lift the base to $21,818.
The COLA increase will help both current and future retirees because every COLA increase is added to the pension base.
The budget protects bargaining unit jobs, including educators at Long Creek Youth Development Center, security screeners at the State House, and public health nurses, with one year of funding for Down East Correctional Facility and our members there
In addition, thanks to your advocacy, a bipartisan, supermajority of state legislators on Aug. 2 overrode the Governor’s veto of the public health nursing legislation, LD 1108, and put it into public law. The law requires the filling of all public health nursing positions, including vacancies, funded in the budget. The law also provides policy direction.
The budget protects the wages of everyone locked out of their jobs or ordered to work during the shutdown. We made sure legislators included budgetary language making everyone whole.
$162 MILLION MORE FOR EDUCATION
While the Legislature repealed the voter-approved 3 percent surcharge for education, the budget increases investment in Maine students, schools, and teachers and funds K-12 public education by $162 million. Department of Education School funding estimates for 2018 can be viewed by district by entering your district info into the following link: www.maine.gov/doe/eps/
REJECTS THE GOVERNOR’S PROPOSED ELIMINATION OF HOMESTEAD EXEMPTION
The budget rejected the Governor’s proposal to eliminate the Homestead exemption for most families, as originally proposed in the administration’s budget.
INVESTS IN DIRECT CARE WORKERS
The budget secures $14.25 million in additional funding for the direct care workforce serving seniors and Mainers with disabilities.
INVESTS IN HIGHER EDUCATION
The budget provides operational funding for the University of Maine, keeping tuition affordable and higher education accessible
SUPPORTS JOB TRAINING
The budget funds the Maine Community College Systems Strategic Workforce Initiative at $10 million, designed to give Mainers the skills and training necessary for immediate employment.
PROTECTS INVESTMENT IN HEAD START
The budget gives more young Mainers an opportunity to thrive as children and later as productive adults.
IMPROVES DISABILITY SERVICES
The budget doubles the number of hours for Mainers who can receive services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities under the Section 29 waiver.
FUNDS RURAL HOSPITALS
The budget rejects proposed cuts to reimbursement rates for Critical Access Hospitals that serve most of Maine’s uninsured throughout the state. This ensures that Critical Access Hospitals will continue to be reimbursed at a higher rate for the work they do and the people they serve.
STUDENT DEBT RELIEF INITIATIVE CARRIED OVER TO NEXT LEGISLATIVE SESSION
Also, the Legislature carried over the bipartisan student debt relief bond initiative known as LD 1163 to the next legislative session. Thanks go to the MSEA Rising members and all other MSEA-SEIU members who took action and will continue to take action in support of LD 1163.
Your actions in support of our legislative priorities helped secure these victories for workers and retired workers during the 127th Maine Legislature spanning 2015 and 2016
During the 127th Maine Legislature covering the 2015 and 2016 legislative sessions, MSEA-SEIU members called, emailed and personally lobbied their legislators in support of fellow Maine workers and retirees. Through respectful conversations, you helped persuade state legislators to approve:
- 2.55 percent cost of living adjustments to pensions of eligible retired state workers and teachers in September 2015 and again in September 2016.
- Emergency legislation providing wage adjustments to Riverview/Dorothea Dix workers.
- Legislation providing wage adjustments for supervisors of law enforcement and other law-enforcement personnel.
- The bipartisan state budget compromise of 2015 providing $2 million for raises for home care workers. Other legislation funded another $250,000 over the next two years for raises for personal care attendants.
In addition, during the 127th Maine Legislature, we built the political support necessary to pass legislation improving the safety of the Maine State Ferry Service. We secured the political support necessary to pass legislation funding our tentative contractual agreements throughout state government. We built the political support necessary to defeat anti-worker proposals pushed by the Governor.
Outside of the 127th Maine Legislature, in the summer of 2016, we worked with current and former legislative allies, among others, and helped persuade the administration to reverse its announced closure of the Maine DHHS office in Fort Kent.
Below is a detailed summary of the legislative gains mentioned above.
RETIREMENT SECURITY LEGISLATION
LD 86, “An Act To Improve Retirement Security for Retired Public Employees,” became law July 12, 2015, without the Governor’s signature. This law provided eligible retired state workers and teachers cost of living adjustments (COLAs) of 2.55 percent added to their base pensions in September 2015 and again in September 2016. Total value to all eligible retired state workers and teachers is about $14 million per year. Current state workers and teachers who participate in the retirement system benefit from LD 86; it raises the maximum pension base for COLA-calculation purposes. Prior to the passage of LD 86, the current maximum pension base for COLA-calculation purposes was $20,420. The 2.55 percent COLA that took effect in September 2015 increased the maximum pension base for COLA-calculation purposes to $20,940. The 2.55 percent COLA taking effect in September 2016 increased the pension base again, this time to $21,474 for COLA-calculation purposes.
EMERGENCY WAGE ADJUSTMENT LEGISLATION FOR RIVERVIEW/DOROTHEA DIX WORKERS
LD 1645, “An Act to Improve Employee Recruitment and Retention at the State Mental Health Institutions,” sponsored by Senator Katz, was enacted unanimously in the Senate and 109-40 in the House. The Governor vetoed the bill. On April 29, 2016, at our urging, and with direct lobbying by our members and legislative sponsors, the Senate overrode the veto 34-1 and the House overrode 116-25. The emergency legislation took effect July 1, 2016.
WAGE PARITY FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT SUPERVISORS AND CERTAIN STATE LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS
LD 1523, “Resolve, to Provide Wage Parity for Law Enforcement Supervisors,” sponsored by Senator Davis, originally was passed to provide a 5 percent wage adjustment to all the supervisory law enforcement officers MSEA-SEIU represents. The Appropriations Committee, with a unanimous vote, amended LD 1523 to include the Governor’s law enforcement wage bill (LD 1653). LD 1653 proposed increasing wages for certain state law enforcement officers from 12 to 18 percent. LD 1523 had previously received a unanimous vote of support in the Senate and a 142-2 vote in the House. LD 1523 will be paid for out of salary savings. All MSEA-SEIU law enforcement supervisors receive a wage adjustment ranging from 5 to 18 percent.
TWO-YEAR STATE BUDGET: RAISES FOR HOME CARE WORKERS, INCREASED FUNDING FOR COMMUNITY COLLEGE SYSTEM
The bipartisan state budget compromise of 2015 added $2 million for raises for home care workers, increased funding for the Maine Community College System by $6 million and allowed new retirees to buy back income lost to merit and longevity pay freezes in fiscal years 2012 and 2013. In addition, LD 1350, “Resolve, to Increase the Reimbursement Rate for Direct-Care Workers Serving Adults with Long-Term Care Needs,” sponsored by Maine House Speaker Mark Eves, funded an additional $250,000 over the next two years for wage increases for personal care attendants. This is over and above the funding in the bipartisan state budget compromise.
EMERGENCY LEGISLATION IMPROVING THE SAFETY OF FERRIES IN MAINE
LD 1468, “Resolve, To Improve the Safety of Ferries in State,” sponsored by Senator Miramant, was enacted in both houses and vetoed by the Governor. At our urging, and with lobbying by our members and the legislative sponsors, the Senate overrode the veto April 29. The vote was 35-0 in the Senate and 113-32 in the House. The bill is law.
WE DEFEATED ANTI-WORKER PROPOSALS BY THE GOVERNOR
LDs 1663 and 1664, both submitted by the Governor, attempted to make changes to the State’s civil service system.
LD 1663, “An Act to Promote Employee Recruitment and Retention,” would have changed the current merit pay system from merit pay awarded based on standards of performance to one requiring meritorious performance that exceeds satisfactory performance. It also would have implemented a recruitment bonus. LD 1663 was voted out of the State and Local Government Committee with a majority ought not to pass (7-6) recommendation. LD 1663 then passed in the Senate but failed in the House, which means it died between the chambers.
LD 1664, “An Act to Enable the State to Hire Qualified Applicants,” was voted out of same committee with a majority ought not to pass (7-6) recommendation and died in non-concurrence between the chambers. LD 1664 would have altered the current practice of applicants qualifying based on a combination of experience and education.
We supported, as amended, the Governor’s LD 1668, “An Act to Facilitate Internal Hiring by Reforming the Use of Registers in Civil Service Rules,” which eliminated outdated language relating to registers. It also allows the HR director to extend one-year temporary positions based on unusual circumstances. This bill passed out of committee with a unanimous ought to pass recommendation, was enacted into law by the Legislature and signed into law by the Governor. LD 1668 is now law.
WE BUILT THE POLITICAL SUPPORT NECESSARY TO PASS LEGISLATION FUNDING OUR TENTATIVE CONTRACTUAL AGREEMENTS IN ALL THREE BRANCHES OF STATE GOVERNMENT
- EXECUTIVE BRANCH: In September 2015, MSEA-SEIU members in the Executive Branch’s Administrative, Professional-Technical and Supervisory Services bargaining units ratified their tentative contractual agreements. Because the contracts were ratified prior to the Sept. 29, 2015, deadline listed in the legislation funding tentative agreements, state workers in those three bargaining units secured the union-negotiated, across-the-board wage increases of 1 percent effective October 2015 and another 1 percent effective July 2016. In addition, hours before the Maine Legislature adjourned April 29, 2016, for the year, state legislators at our urging approved the emergency legislation known as LD 1702, “An Act to Fund Agreements with Bargaining Units for Certain Executive Branch employees,” sponsored by Senator Cushing. LD 1702 funded the tentative agreement in the State of Maine Executive Branch Operations, Maintenance and Support Services (OM&S) Bargaining Unit so long as it was ratified by May 31, 2016. Our members ratified it by that date.
- JUDICIAL BRANCH: In 2015, MSEA-SEIU members in all four of our Judicial Branch bargaining units — Administrative, Law Enforcement, Professional and Supervisory) — ratified two-year successor contracts. The four contracts, good through June 30, 2017, provide pay raises as follows: 1 percent starting the first pay period after Sept. 1, 2015; another 1 percent starting the first pay period after July 1, 2016; adding a step and dropping a step starting April 2016; employees whose hire date is on or before June 30, 2011, and who have uninterrupted Judicial Branch service, will receive an additional step increase at the start of the pay period closest to January 2017; the longevity pay freeze was removed; and mentor pay was established at an additional $1 per hour.
- LEGISLATIVE BRANCH: Also in 2015, MSEA-SEIU members in our Administrative Unit of Legislative Employees within the Legislative Branch unanimously ratified a two-year contract running from Oct. 1, 2015, through Sept. 30, 2017. The contract includes a two-and-a-half percent wage increase during the first year of the contract, and a one-and-a-half-percent wage increase during the second year. Eligibility to advance to the last two steps now includes previous relevant experience. Part-time employees become step-eligible after passing probation and completing one year of service. The contract also improves vacation-leave language and restores compensating time for pay grades seven through 12.