MSEA-SEIU members Cindy Oakes, left, and MSEA-SEIU past president Ramona Welton, right, stand with House Speaker Ryan Fecteau June 2 at the State House.
MSEA-SEIU Member Rachel Ackoff, who works as a campaign manager for the Maine People’s Alliance, and Retiree Member John Patrick join with our coalition partners in Mainers for Tax Fairness June 8 to demand the Legislature guarantee every Mainer can go to the doctor when they’re sick. We demand fair pay for public workers, family caregivers, direct care workers and childcare workers — and we demand legislators invest in more affordable housing so all Mainers have a safe place to live.
130th Maine Legislature —
End pay gap, address sick buildings, disability retirement, privatization
MSEA-SEIU members are engaging in the Legislature’s work, testifying over Zoom, attending work sessions, using online actions and participating in socially distanced rallies to make our voice heard. When legislators resumed their sessions at the State House on June 2, members joined them to advocate for our legislative initiatives.
Budget Work: Members stepped up in support of the first supplemental budget over the winter, the “Back to Basics” budget enacted in March and the “Part 2 Budget Proposal.” The latter, released in May, remains pending.
Members reached out to their representatives encouraging them to support the first supplemental budget. On March 31, members talked with legislators and handed out whoopie pies in support of the “Back to Basics” baseline budget maintaining all state services over the next two years. While we are encouraged by many parts of the “Part 2 Budget Proposal” still being developed and debated, especially the 150 new permanent positions in the Executive Branch, we continue to push Governor Mills and the Legislature to end the state employee pay gap. Dozens of legislators have signed onto our letter asking the Governor to end the pay gap.
On June 9, the Maine House of Representatives unanimously passed our sick-buildings legislation, LD 1042, “An Act to Protect State Workers from Exposure to Harmful Substances,” sponsored by Representative Thom Harnett. Additional votes are necessary before it becomes law. It’s necessary because right now, the State lacks a comprehensive system for tracking potential health risks, repairs and risk zones in its sick buildings. LD 1042 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.
The following two bills have had hearings and received majority “ought to pass as amended” reports in their committees. Floor votes will happen soon on:
- Prevent Unnecessary Privatization (LD 875): This legislation would establish a process before a state agency can enter into a privatization contract: Wages and benefits for employees of the contractor must be comparable to state employees performing the same services; the contractor must seek to hire agency employees terminated due to privatization.
- Fix the Disability Retirement System (LD 1644): This legislation would fix disability-retirement practices within the Maine Public Employees Retirement system (MainePERS) by requiring independent medical examinations and independent hearing officers that are not directly employed by MainePERS.
We’re also advocating for:
- Tax Fairness for MainePERS participants: In early May, the Taxation Committee heard two bills (LD 1145 & LD 1227) to eliminate the state income tax on MainePERS pensions to create tax fairness with social security benefits; 58 members emailed the committee asking them to support these bills, and LD 1227 was voted “ought to pass as amended.”
- Restore the full retiree cost of living adjustment (COLA): The Labor Committee heard LD 703, which would restore the COLA to retirees’ full MainePERS benefit amount; 32 retiree members emailed the committee asking them to support this bill.
- Department of Corrections: The Criminal Justice Committee heard two bills related to wages at DOC (LD 271 & LD 1683).
- Child Development Services (LDs 135, 255, and 386): The Education Committee held a public hearing on three bills that would make significant changes to CDS. During the public hearing, MSEA members stepped up to make their voices heard and share concerns; the Education Committee heard those concerns and altered their proposed legislation in response to those concerns.
- State Employee Health Commission (LD 1311): MSEA member Jonathan French has done great work in the Health Coverage, Insurance, and Financial Services Committee to make statutory changes to the language around the State Employee Health Commission.
- Special Retirement for the Crime Lab and Computer Crimes Lab (LD 1101): 13 members testified on LD 1101, which would provide early retirement for civilian employees in the Crime Lab and Computer Crimes Lab. The Labor Committee voted unanimously in support.
- Municipal Revenue Sharing (LD 328): We testified for restoring municipal revenue sharing to 5%. This would help municipalities provide services without having to raise property taxes to pay for them.