Members step up, elect pro-worker Legislature, U.S. House, president
MSEA-SEIU Member Katrina Ray-Saulis, an adjunct professor, hosted a nationwide SEIU for Biden online event as we got out the vote for the General Election. SEIU members throughout the nation were joined by special guest comedian Patton Oswalt, at right, before calling members in support of Biden.
Because of the advocacy of MSEA-SEIU members in support of leaders who respect us and our work, on Nov. 3 we elected a pro-worker majority of state legislators in both the Maine Senate and Maine House of Representatives for the 130th Maine Legislature. We re-elected our pro-worker Congressman, Jared Golden, and our pro-worker Congresswoman, Chellie Pingree.
Members took a leadership role in electing a pro-worker president and vice president in President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. In the weeks before the election, MSEA-SEIU Member Katrina Ray-Saulis, an adjunct professor at the Central Maine and Kennebec Valley community colleges, hosted a nationwide SEIU for Biden online event. SEIU members from locals throughout our nation were joined by special guest comedian Patton Oswalt before calling members in their respective locals in support of Biden.
Other members, including MSEA-SEIU Director Rachel Sherman, who works for York County Government, texted fellow members in support of endorsed candidates.
Members helped re-elect Maine Senate President Troy Jackson of Allagash, a champion of quality services and the workers who provide them. Members helped elect another champion, former state representative Chloe Maxmin of Nobleboro, in Maine Senate District 13. Senator Maxmin has proven herself as a fierce advocate for Maine workers, active and retired. She ran a positive and upbeat campaign.
In addition, members helped elect another advocate for workers, Richard Evans, M.D., of Dover-Foxcroft in House District 120 in Piscataquis County. A general surgeon and an Air Force veteran, Representative Evans years ago served as chief of medical services at the former Loring Air Force base in Limestone, as a commander of the 351st Strategic Hospital at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, and as commander of the 28th Medical Group at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota. According to the Bangor Daily News, Representative Evans is “the first Democrat in more than 30 years to represent one of the most conservative areas in the Maine House of Representatives. He will be just the fifth Black lawmaker in the 200-year history of one of the nation’s whitest states.”
LEGISLATIVE LEADERS ELECTED
Congratulations to the state legislative leaders elected or reelected by the 130th Maine Legislature:
- Maine Senate: Senate President Troy Jackson, Senate Democratic Leader Nate Libby, Senate Assistant Democratic Leader Eloise Vitelli, Senate Republican Leader Jeff Timberlake and Senate Assistant Republican Leader Matt Pouliot. Senator Pouliot’s legislative district contains the largest number of MSEA-SEIU members of all of Maine’s legislative districts.
- Maine House: House Speaker Ryan Fecteau, House Democratic Leader Michelle Dunphy, House Assistant Democratic Leader Rachel Talbot Ross, House Republican Leader Kathleen Dillingham and House Assistant Republican Leader Joel Stetkis.
We look forward to working with all legislative leaders in support of quality services and Maine workers, active and retired.
CONSTITUTIONAL OFFICERS ELECTED
Congratulations to Maine’s constitutional officers elected or reelected by the 130th Legislature: Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey, Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows; State Treasurer Henry Beck; and State Auditor Matt Dunlap.
LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES CONTINUE
In addition to ensuring the Legislature passes a responsible state budget (see blue box above), our work continues from the shortened 2020 session. Our priorities include addressing the chronic problem of sick buildings in worksites, establishing a career path for adjunct professors, reforming the disability-retirement system at the Maine Public Employees Retirement System, ensuring equity for Human Services Caseworkers, strengthening the retirement security of workers at the State Police Crime Lab and State Police Computer Crimes Task Force, and protecting taxpayers in the privatization of public services.
While recent State revenue projections reflect an improved economic forecast, the State continues to expect revenue shortfalls estimated at $655 million for the three years covering the current fiscal year and next two-year state budget cycle.
The projections anticipate a protracted, slow and uneven recovery from the current recession. They anticipate further federal COVID relief in 2021, including support for state and local governments, beyond the $809 billion federal COVID relief legislation being discussed in our nation’s capital as the Stater was going to press.
The voices of essential workers like you, active or retired, matter. During the 2021 legislative session, we will need to work hard to ensure our voices are heard during every step of the biennial budget process. Our legislators need to know who we are and the work we do. We need a fair, responsible budget that protects state workers and the critical services we provide to our communities.
Please sign up today to receive alerts when there are actions YOU can take to ensure we have a fair, responsible budget. There will be numerous ways to get involved, including calling, emailing, testifying virtually and attending virtual town halls.
It’s up to all of us to advocate for a fair state budget. Please advocate for the funding necessary to ensure quality services for Maine people. Join with fellow MSEA-SEIU members fighting to protect jobs and services by pushing for a fair state budget. Join at this link.
Updated Jan. 16, 2020: Legislative roundup for the 2020 legislative session —
Protect state workers from exposure to carcinogens;
improve the disability-retirement system at Maine PERS;
also legislation on adjuncts, CDS, privatization schemes, right to strike, and retirement security; join us at the State House for our Visibility Days, and Labor Lobby Day, plus the Race & Labor Program!
At our request, Representative Harnett is sponsoring LD 1969, An Act to Protect State Workers from Exposure to Carcinogens. The Committee on State and Local Government will hold a hearing on LD 1969 at 10 a.m. Jan. 22 in Cross Office Building Room 214. LD 1969 would identify and catalog problem buildings and related testing. It would create new standards relating to contaminant levels and improve testing requirements. It would improve the ability of workers to raise and resolve safety concerns. Story.
We support LD 1978, An Act to Improve the Disability Retirement Program of the Maine Public Employees Retirement System, sponsored by Senator David Miramant. LD 1978 would require MainePERS to use independent hearing officers for disability retirement appeals. It would abolish medical board reviews in favor of independent medical examinations to help in decision making. The Committee on Labor and Housing will hold a hearing on LD 1978 at 2 p.m. Jan. 29 in Cross Office Building Room 202. Story.
We support LD 1878, Resolve to Establish the Commission to Study the Use of Adjunct Professors in Maine’s Public University and College System, sponsored by Representative Jan Dodge. LD 1878 would provide for a study and recommendations on the use of adjuncts in the University of Maine System and Maine Community College System. It would address issues including creation of a career path for adjuncts, an expansion of their role in student retention and success, expansion of access to healthcare for adjuncts, and funding needs.
We’re continuing to monitor ongoing legislation and funding legislation relating to Child Development services.
We support LD 1458, An Act to Protect Maine Taxpayers in the Privatization of Public Services, sponsored by Senator Shenna Bellows. LD 1458, which was carried over from the last session, establishes a process before a state agency can enter into a privatization contract.
We support LD 900, An Act to Expand the Rights of Public Employees under the Maine Labor Laws, sponsored by Representative Mike Sylvester. LD 900, which was carried over from the last session, would give more power to Maine’s public workers by providing them with the right to strike. Workers in critical public safety roles, such as law enforcement and firefighters, are exempted from the bill.
MSEA-SEIU Member Visibility Days at the State House: Join fellow MSEA-SEIU members at the State House at our MSEA-SEIU Member Visibility Days in support of our legislative initiatives. Meet up at 9:30 a.m. in the hallway just past Security on the following dates: January 30, February 13, February 27, March 26, April 9, and April 23. Register here.
Attend Labor Lobby Day March 12: Join fellow union members statewide at the State House on Thursday, March 12, for the 2020 Maine AFL-CIO Labor Lobby Day, in support of pro-worker legislation. Register here.
Race & Labor on March 22: Join fellow unionists at the Maine Irish Heritage Center in Portland from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, March 22, for a program of learning, sharing and discussion for Maine union leaders and members about racial justice in the labor movement. Sign up here.
Support LD 1659 for workers at Riverview, Dorothea Dix: LD 1659, sponsored by Maine Senate President Troy Jackson, would put workers at Riverview Psychiatric Center and Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center in the 1998 Special Plan for retirement purposes. Email the Legislature’s State and Local Government Committee at SLG@legislature.maine.gov and ask them to support LD 1659.
Support LD 1355 for Computer Crimes Unit, Crime Lab workers: We support LD 1355, sponsored by Senator Bill Diamond, to expand the 1988 special retirement plan to include employees in the State Police Crime Lab and the State Police Computer Crimes Unit. While the Maine House and the Maine Senate approved this legislation last year, it was held up by the Appropriations Committee, where it remains pending. The workers in the Maine State Police Computer Crimes Unit and the Maine State Police Crime Lab do traumatic work. It takes a toll on them as workers, as private citizens, as spouses or partners, as parents. It’s past time we stopped expecting these workers to do this gruesome work until their normal retirement age. It’s past time to include these workers in the 1998 Special Retirement Plan. Email the Appropriations Committee at AFA@legislature.maine.gov and ask them to support LD 1355.
Support LD 162 for pension fairness: While Maine doesn’t tax Social Security benefits, it does tax the pension benefits earned by Maine’s retired state workers, educators and others participating in the Maine Public Employees Retirement System. This penalizes Mainers who worked some, or all, of their lives in public service. This inequity is compounded by the federal Social Security Offsets, which penalize Maine’s public employees by reducing or eliminating Social Security benefits they earned. LD 162, An Act to Eliminate the State Income Tax on Maine Public Employee Retirement System Pensions, sponsored by Senator Shenna Bellows, would address this problem by eliminating the state income tax on MainePERS pensions. It was carried over from the last legislative session. Speaking in support of LD 162, State Rep. and MSEA-SEIU Retiree Member Donna Doore of Augusta explained why the legislation is necessary: “State and (Participating Local District) employees are penalized by having any amount over $10,000 of their MainePERS retirement taxed. If someone collects Social Security, they are not taxed on it. This leaves state employees (and PLD employees) with a disadvantage and it is not fair.” Ask the Legislature’s Taxation Committee to support LD 162. Email the committee at: TAX@legislature.maine.gov. LD 162 would provide some relief to retired state workers and retired educators most impacted by the permanent and significant cuts made in 2011 to their pensions. Cost-of-living adjustments, or COLAs, were frozen for three years. When the COLAs resumed, they were calculated on a base of $20,000 per year, adjusted for inflation, with a maximum CPI increase of 3% per year. For those retired state workers and retired educators who were career public servants with pensions higher than $20,000 per year, they permanently lost earnings on that amount above the $20,000 base. The total permanent impact to retirees was $1.7 billion. Treat MainePERS pensions the same as Social Security for income-tax purposes. Ask the Taxation Committee to support LD 162.
2019 session of the 129th Maine Legislature —
Real progress on our issues; keep up pressure
You and your coworkers spoke up – and Maine’s elected leaders listened. While there is a lot left to do, together, we made real progress in the 2019 legislative session.
From testifying at the State House to talking with state legislators and the Governor, we demanded solutions to the pervasive recruitment and retention issues in state government. The enacted two-year state budget and the laws we passed address many of the concerns members raised over the past year:
Understaffing: The budget funds 62 new Child Protective Worker positions, 48 new positions for a new inpatient unit at Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center, 18 new positions in the Department of Education, 12 new positions in the Department of the Attorney General, eight new mental health crisis worker positions for people with developmental disabilities and four new Computer Crimes Task Force positions.
Better working conditions: State park rangers and managers will receive the training they need to protect Maine people and the parks (LD 1246 signed into law). Caseload standards will be implemented for child protective caseworkers in the Maine Office of Child and Family Services within DHHS (LD 821 signed into law), addressing the impossible caseloads they’ve been experiencing.
Contracts funded: The budget funds the contractual agreements ratified by our members in the Executive and Judicial branches of Maine State Government.
Increased funding for CDS, Governor Baxter School for the Deaf, MCCS, Maine Maritime Academy: The budget increases funding by $3 million for Child Development Services, where our members ratified a new contract with substantial raises. The budget increases, by 3.35 percent each fiscal year, funding for the work our members do for the Maine Community College System and Maine Maritime Academy. It also increases funding by $1.7 million for the Governor Baxter School for the Deaf/MECDHH.
Statewide investments: The budget invests in local schools, adding $111 million in state aid for education. It makes progress on property tax relief by increasing the Homestead Exemption to $25,000. It increases revenue sharing. It strengthens the Property Tax Fairness Credit, benefiting 13,000 low-income Mainers.
To be sure, we’re disappointed Gov. Mills vetoed LD 1177, which would have strengthened collective bargaining rights by making arbitration binding on key economic issues for public workers. The rights of public workers need to be strengthened to defend our families and the services we provide to the people of Maine. We will keep fighting to strengthen collective bargaining rights.
On the whole, we can all take real pride in the progress our members made this legislative session. Congratulations go to all of you who spoke up in support of public services, public workers and retirement security. Let’s keep up the pressure to win for public services, public workers and retirees — and to hold all elected officials accountable.
MSEA-SEIU members and staff joined Governor Mills in the signing ceremony for LD 821, which sets caseload standards for Child Protective Caseworkers in the Maine DHHS Office of Child and Family Services.
Important legislation carried over to the January 2020 legislative session—
Protect CDS, prevent privatization, strengthen workers’ rights
Several legislative proposals impacting public services and public workers have been carried over to the January 2020 legislative session:
Protect Child Development Services (CDS): MSEA-SEIU members at CDS pushed back and opposed LD 1715, which would dissolve CDS without any plan in place. CDS provides crucial services newborns through age 5 and their families so they can make the best of their public education.
Prevent privatization: We support LD 1458, An Act to Protect Maine Taxpayers in the Privatization of Public Services, sponsored by State Senator Shenna Bellows. LD 1458 establishes a process before a state agency can enter into a privatization contract.
Strengthen workers’ rights: We support LD 900, An Act To Expand the Rights of Public Employees under the Maine Labor Laws, sponsored by State Rep. Mike Sylvester. LD 900 would give more power to Maine’s public workers by providing them with the right to strike. Workers in critical public safety roles, such as law enforcement and firefighters, are exempted from the bill. To be sure, nobody wants to strike. It’s an option of last resort when workers have exhausted all other means to defend themselves, their families, and their communities.
Strengthen retirement security: We support LD 1355, sponsored by State Senator Bill Diamond, to expand the 1988 special retirement plan to civilian employees in the State Police Crime Lab and the State Police Computer Crimes Unit. While the Maine House and the Maine Senate approved this legislation, it was held up by the Appropriations Committee for funding and carried over to the January 2020 legislative session.
Stay tuned! The 2019 MSEA-SEIU Legislative Scorecard will be published in your next Maine Stater. It will list how your state senator and state representative voted on key votes we are tracking.