President Welton’s column —

You can make a difference; we need you to make a difference

Feb. 16, 2017

By Ramona Welton
President, MSEA-SEIU Local 1989

Caring starts at home. It begins with each of us and spreads to our families, neighbors, coworkers and beyond. The responses by you and your fellow members to two separate tragedies involving a union brother and a union sister reflect the caring spirit that MSEA-SEIU membership is all about.

We grieve the death of our fellow union brother Jeff Abbott of Saco. Jeff had gone to work Jan. 20 in his job as a highway maintenance worker for the Maine Turnpike Authority. He didn’t make it home. He was struck and killed by a vehicle while working on the turnpike.

The outpouring of support our members have shown for Jeff’s family was immense. Our members surrounded his family with love and support. His obituary appears on Page 3 of our Feb. 16 Maine Stater.

We also mourn with our fellow union sister Peggy Gagnon of Caribou, whose son, Zachary, died Oct. 22, 2016, at age 13 from a rare form of cancer. On Page 9 of the Feb. 16 Maine Stater, Peggy shares her story. She thanks her coworkers for stepping up in a big way while she was caring for Zachary. She notes the generosity of our members and chapters in helping her at this difficult time.

On a broader level, many of you are engaging in what has become a dizzying array of real and serious challenges to working families and retirees in the wake of President Trump’s election and yet another bad state budget proposal from the Governor. You wouldn’t be alone if you feel overwhelmed. Let me assure you: Your voice matters. Your voice needs to be heard by decision makers at the state and national levels if we are to win for working families and retirees.

We are pushing for a responsible state budget. We are urging state legislators to reject the Governor’s bad budget that gives more tax breaks to the wealthy at the expense of everyone else, including Maine seniors. See the story on Page 1 of the Feb. 16 Stater. Be sure to join us Wednesday, March 8, at the State House to oppose the Governor’s scheme to freeze for two years the retiree cost of living adjustment (COLA). Come back to the State House the following day, Thursday, March 9, for the Maine AFL-CIO Labor Lobby Day. Respectfully ask your state senator and state representative to reject the Governor’s bad budget. Our 2017 Guide to Contacting Your State Legislators in this Stater lists their contact info.

As the Feb. 16 Stater was going to press, your fellow MSEA-SEIU members and staff, and our allies, have been testifying in support of the public services we provide and the workers who provide those services. Example: MSEA-SEIU member Zander Parker, a small craft master at Maine Maritime Academy, submitted written testimony Feb. 14 in support of responsible funding for the academy. Thanks go to Zander for making the voice of workers heard.

We are testifying against the Governor’s proposal to lay off at least 265 state workers and eliminate at least 208 vacant positions in state government. We need your help in this effort.

Check your personal email for updates from us on how you can help stand up for quality public services and the workers who deliver them. We also will be emailing information on how you can advocate for your retirement security. Please note the Governor’s COLA freeze impacts both current and retired state workers, so be sure to make your voice heard. If you are not yet receiving updates from us to your personal email, go to this official MSEA-SEIU link right away and provide us with your personal email so we can reach you.

The bad news: All across our nation, workers and retired workers are facing threats to their rights and retirement security. These attacks are coming from President Trump’s cabinet nominees and the Republican majority in Congress.

The good news: Together, through our 2-million member international union, SEIU, and through our allies such as the Maine AFL-CIO, the Maine Education Association, the Maine People’s Alliance, Maine Equal Justice Partners, Planned Parenthood, and the Maine Center for Economic Policy, we can make sure the voice of workers and retirees is heard in decision-making at the state and national levels.

The Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act would deny care to 52 million Americans with pre-existing conditions. If you have employer health insurance, you might think you are safe. You aren’t. Repeal would make it harder to access mental health and substance abuse services. Repeal would increase the level of uncompensated care, which in turn would increase premiums on those with insurance. Repeal would undo the federal healthcare law’s prohibition against lifetime caps on healthcare costs. Repeal also would undo the ability of dependent children to remain on a parent’s healthcare plan up to age 26. We need to fight to protect and strengthen the Affordable Care Act.

President Trump’s nominee for health secretary, Tom Price, and Republicans in Congress are pushing to privatize Medicare and cut Medicaid. They want to cut Medicaid for 74 million Americans. Some of you are speaking out in support of protecting both programs. Retiree members Kathy and Frank Kadi, Lois Baxter and Jim Betts are telling their stories about why Medicare is important to them. The SEIU National Retirees Program featured Jim in a national action campaign. Read their stories on Page 7 of the Feb. 16 Stater.

Together with our allies, we signed and delivered petitions Feb. 3 to Sen. Susan Collins urging her to oppose the nomination of fast-food CEO Andy Puzder at the committee level. We participated in other actions highlighting why Puzder is the wrong person to lead the Labor Department. Puzder withdrew his nomination Feb. 15. We thank Sen. Collins for listening to our concerns and publicly voicing her doubts about his nomination.

Many of you also joined in on the Jan. 21 Women’s March on Maine in support of social justice and each other.

My challenge to you is this: Keep making your voice heard. It’s how we win for working families and retirees.

Updated: February 17, 2017 — 12:22 pm
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