New Labor Center in Maine to Focus on Union Organizing, Community Education
Tuesday, September 5, 2023
Union activity is thriving nationwide and a new labor center in Maine aims to keep it going.
The University of Southern Maine will open the Charles Scontras Center for Labor and Community Education this fall - offering free training on how to organize a union, as well as lessons on Maine's rich labor history.
Executive Director Matthew Emmick said support for unions is growing as more workers understand their collective power.
"Labor history and labor rights are not just about individuals improving their wages and working conditions," said Emmick, "they're about creating better societies and really working for the common good."
A Gallup poll finds more than 70% of Americans now support labor unions - the highest rate since 1965.
Maine, like other New England states, is struggling with a worker shortage - but increasing numbers of immigrants and asylum seekers could help.
Emmick said the Scontras Center aims to "build bridges" with these new Mainers, offering the chance to learn about workers rights they may not have experienced in their own home countries.
"There are a lot of skills in this community," said Emmick, "and when folks who are marginalized are given the opportunity to enter the workforce and develop new skills, we all benefit from that."
Emmick said the new center also aims to bridge the perceived differences between labor and environmental movements.
The state's recent approval of a new offshore wind energy industry was made possible by both groups working together to ensure strong union jobs would be a part of the new green energy sector.
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