President Welton’s column —

You identified the problems; together, let’s work on solutions

February 21, 2019

By Ramona Welton
President, MSEA-SEIU Local 1989

Throughout our bargaining units small and large, MSEA-SEIU members and nonmembers identified common themes after a decade of understaffing and underfunding public services:

  • Workloads: There aren’t enough hours in the day to get the work done;
  • Understaffing: There are too few workers to do the public’s work;
  • Recruitment and retention: The situation has reached a breaking point in most worksites;
  • Making ends meet: It’s becoming harder and harder to pay the monthly bills;
  • Retirement: Folks are really concerned about their ability to retire.

In the City of Auburn, MSEA-SEIU members are bargaining for a new contract to succeed the one expiring June 30. We surveyed City of Auburn employees to identify their concerns. Eighty percent of those responding identified insufficient staffing as a real problem (see chart on this page). Sixty percent said they’re concerned about retirement. Forty percent struggle to pay monthly bills. Forty percent also are helping family members pay student debt.

In our survey of adjunct professors at the Maine Community College System, adjunct professors who responded echoed the concerns raised by the City of Auburn workers.

“Great students. But, really, the pay is close to insulting,” one adjunct professor wrote.

“It’s about the students. A core group of faculty, both full-time and adjunct, is key to serving the interests of our students,” another adjunct professor wrote. “What are we really sacrificing when we do not hire full-time faculty or establish a stable core of part-time faculty?”

Eighty-three percent of the over 1,000 workers responding to our survey in the State of Maine Executive Branch pointed to recruitment and retention problems in their offices, worksites or departments. Fifty-nine percent reported considering leaving state service. Forty percent are struggling to pay their monthly bills. The survey results also are on our website.
Elected members of our bargaining teams are listening to you. They are taking the survey results to heart as they advocate for you at the bargaining table. Members in some of our units, such as the Administrative and Professional units at MainePERS are celebrating ratified contracts. Members at Child Development Services were holding a contract ratification vote at press time. Members of our Executive Branch bargaining team begin negotiations Feb. 25. Our Judicial team will start bargaining soon. Members in other units, such as the Maine Turnpike Authority, have bargaining coming up.

In order to win at the bargaining table, our bargaining teams need your support. Together, let’s show management we’re united. Show your support for your bargaining team with worksite actions. Rally with signs, wear purple, and take photos to share on social media. Send photos to so we can spread the word.

The Governor’s proposed two-year state budget is a starting point for quality services. It’s now up to all of us to speak with our state senators and state representatives in support of a budget that adequately staffs and funds quality services for Maine people, and that funds our contracts.

This legislative session, we’re also supporting pro-worker and pro-retiree legislation, including LD 369 for paid sick leave and LD 162 to treat state income taxes on Maine Public Employees Retirement System pensions the same as Social Security benefits.  We’re supporting the establishment of a prerelease center in Washington County. Please ask your state senator and state representative to support those issues. Reach out to them by using our enclosed 2019 Guide to Contacting Your State Legislators. Talk to them in person by signing up for Labor Lobby Day on March 14.

Together, let’s make our voice heard.


Updated: February 21, 2019 — 4:24 pm