Maine workers endorse Governor Janet Mills for reelection


Governor Mills speaking at our Member Forum in 2019

 The choice between Governor Janet Mills and former Governor Paul LePage on Nov. 8 is clear; Governor Mills has earned a second term, members of MSEA-SEIU Local 1989 say


Citing her record on essential services, workers’ wages, retirement security and seniors, affordable healthcare, workers’ rights and the COVID-19 pandemic, members of the Maine Service Employees Association, Local 1989 of the Service Employees International Union, endorsed Governor Janet Mills for reelection in the Nov. 8, 2022, General Elections. The union represents over 13,000 Maine workers.

During LePage’s governorship, essential services like 911 dispatching, Maine DOT plowing and adequate staffing for our state psychiatric hospitals were constantly at risk due to state workers being underpaid and understaffed.

“Over LePage’s eight years in office, state workers received pay raises averaging 1.25% a year; our pay raises over Governor Mills’s four years averaged 3.25% a year,” said Brian Markey of Kenduskeag, president of the MSEA-SEIU Penobscot Chapter and an assistant technician for the Maine Department of Transportation. “And unlike LePage, Governor Mills never imposed merit and longevity pay freezes, or hiring freezes.”

To be sure, the State of Maine still has a long way to go to address the state employee pay gap and the recruitment and retention issues in essential services, as state workers are paid on average 15% less than their public and private sector counterparts throughout New England, according to the 2020 State of Maine Market Report, which confirmed the findings of an earlier state-commissioned report. The records of LePage and Governor Mills are clear: Where LePage used his eight years in office to worsen the state employee pay gap, compromising the ability of the State to recruit and retain workers, Governor Mills for the past four years has begun digging Maine out of it.

Additionally, Maine’s private sector service workers are earning more under Governor Mills than they earned under LePage. In his first year in office, in addition to opposing efforts to raise Maine’s minimum wage, LePage in 2011 tried to lower Maine’s minimum wage to $5.25 an hour for anyone under age 20 for their first six months on the job. In his last year in office, 2018, LePage again tried to cut Maine’s minimum wage, block it from increasing and eliminate cost of living adjustments to it. His drive to lower wages has had real consequences for services Maine people count on.

Where the direct-care worker crisis festered throughout the LePage administration, Governor Mills has begun addressing it. In 2020, she moved up a scheduled pay raise for 20,000 direct care workers, all of whom help Maine people live independently in their own homes. The budget she signed into law earlier this year provides raises for Maine’s childcare, early childhood and direct care workers. Governor Mills understands the importance of paying workers fairly to deliver these and other publicly funded services to Maine people.

Over the past four years, Governor Mills has worked to figure out the many problems our state faces. Where other governors have failed to address problems, or even created or exacerbated them, Governor Mills has shown her determination to bring people together and find solutions for the good of all Maine people and the future of our Great State of Maine. She built the bipartisan support necessary to implement Maine’s free community college program. That’s the leadership Maine needs.

Governor Mills’s record on Maine seniors over the past four years also stands in stark contrast to that of LePage, who made tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations at the expense of everyone else his priority during his eight years in office. MSEA-SEIU members recalled how LePage cut the pensions of state workers and public school teachers in 2011 to help pay for his tax breaks for the wealthy – and how Governor Mills signed improvements to the Maine Public Retirement System and direct tax relief for Maine seniors into law.

“LePage’s 2011 pension cuts have been devastating to Maine’s current and future retirees,” said MSEA-SEIU Retiree Director Penny Whitney-Asdourian of Scarborough, president of the MSEA-SEIU Androscoggin Valley Retirees Chapter and a retired clerk of court for the State of Maine Judicial Branch. “Because of LePage, thousands of State of Maine retirees, teacher retirees and their families have been struggling to make ends meet and catch up with the rising cost of living. LePage’s cuts to state and local aid also skewed Maine’s tax structure against working families and retirees by putting more pressure on property taxes.”

Fortunately, with the budgets that Governor Mills signed into law, Maine’s working families and retirees received much-needed relief. Governor Mills provided direct tax relief to Maine seniors. She increased the 2021 retiree pension cost of living adjustment for retired state workers and retired teachers. She increased the pension base, which is the pension amount eligible for retiree cost of living adjustments. She fully funded municipal aid and accomplished what no other Governor, including LePage in his eight years in office, did: She met the State’s obligation to fund our schools at 55 percent. Because of her leadership on these issues, Maine’s cities and towns are less reliant on property taxes.

The records of Governor Mills and former Governor LePage also contrast starkly when it comes to workers’ rights. LePage repeatedly tried to take away rights from Maine workers. In 2012, he eliminated collective bargaining rights for Maine’s childcare providers. He signed into law legislation harmful to workers who get injured on the job and legislation harmful to workers who file for unemployment insurance.

In contrast, Governor Mills has respected and expanded Maine workers’ rights. In 2019, she signed into law the bipartisan, first-in-the-nation paid leave law for workers at companies with more than 10 employees.

While we have strongly disagreed with some of her decisions, including her vetoes of legislation relating to farmworkers’ rights and binding arbitration, we know Maine workers and their families would be much better off reelecting Governor Mills than giving a third term to LePage.

LePage five times vetoed legislation expanding MaineCare under the Affordable Care Act, preventing Mainers without insurance from accessing quality, affordable healthcare while he was in office. LePage refused to implement the 2017 MaineCare expansion overwhelmingly approved by Maine voters in a referendum.

In addition, LePage flat-funded the State Employee Health Insurance Plan for two years, resulting in state workers having to pay what is known as co-insurance, the fee they pay after already paying premiums, deductibles and copays.

“In contrast, Governor Mills implemented MaineCare expansion on Day 1, providing affordable healthcare to thousands of Mainers who lacked it,” said MSEA-SEIU past president Ramona Welton of Augusta, an auditor for the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles within the Maine Department of Secretary of State. “In both of her two-year state budgets, Governor Mills also sufficiently funded the State Employee Health Insurance Plan to maintain benefits.”

Throughout his eight years in office, LePage largely dismantled Maine’s public health nursing program; he left Maine ill-prepared for public health crises like the COVID-19 pandemic. He flouted a 2017 state law, enacted over his veto, requiring the restoration of Maine’s public health nursing program.

Governor Mills has been a steady hand in this pandemic. Under Governor Mills, while COVID-19 cases rates have fluctuated, Maine currently has one of the lowest case rates and death rates in America. “Our communities are smarter, stronger and healthier under Governor Mills,” said Kevin Russell of West Gardiner, president of the MSEA-SEIU Capitol Western Chapter and an eligibility specialist for the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. “Her leadership helped save Maine lives, keep our economy going and ensure the continuation of services people count on.”

Members of MSEA-SEIU Local 1989 sent questionnaires to all candidates for Governor. Governor Mills filled out the questionnaire; LePage didn’t respond.

The Maine Service Employees Association, Local 1989 of the Service Employees International Union, represents over 13,000 Maine workers.

Updated: June 21, 2022 — 11:42 AM