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Focus of Maine AFL-CIO Lobby Day: Right to Strike, Fair Contracts

It is currently illegal in Maine for public employees to strike, including teachers, but labor leaders in the state want to change that. (weaverphoto/Creative Commons)
It is currently illegal in Maine for public employees to strike, including teachers, but labor leaders in the state want to change that. (weaverphoto/Creative Commons)
March 12, 2020

AUGUSTA, Maine -- The Maine chapter of the AFL-CIO has its annual Lobby Day at the State House Thursday.

The group will be advocating for a number of working class priorities, including the public sector's right to strike.

More than 100 workers from across Maine are expected to participate and meet with lawmakers.

One of the bills they're watching is LD 900, which would grant many public sector employees, including teachers, the ability to strike.

As Maine AFL-CIO President Cynthia Phinney points out, it is currently illegal in Maine for public employees to strike.

"We think the ability to withhold labor is an important right that all workers should have, and we want that extended to those who choose to work and spend their careers serving the state," she states.

The bill would only apply to workers in jobs that aren't necessary for public safety -- so, it excludes police, for example.

But it may have a tough time passing - Gov. Janet Mills says she would veto it.

Maine workers plan to release the rest of their 2020 "Working Families Legislative Agenda" at a news conference at 11:45 a.m. in the Atrium of the State Museum.

Phinney says the Maine AFL-CIO is also pushing for a bill to ensure fair labor practices for construction contractors. She says some who bid for state-funded jobs try to cut corners, and don't offer the same working conditions as the more conscientious labor contractors.

"We don't want to get underbid from contractors who are trying to do the right things to create career paths for workers, provide good training, provide solid OSHA training, for safety on the job for everyone," she states. "We don't want contractors who are doing that to be easily underbid by contractors who use that to cut their costs."

That bill is LD 1639, which hasn't been reported out of committee yet. Phinney says they're also backing legislation to strengthen protections for injured public workers, and to increase public transportation funding.

Laura Rosbrow-Telem, Public News Service - ME