2011 Blasts From the Past: Maine State Workers’ Rally in Augusta; LePage, NYC Lawyer Walks Out Of MSEA-SEIU Contract Negotiations

Posted on July 2, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , |

Maine state employees protest in 2011

Maine state employees protest in 2011

Today Governor LePage’s office sent the following missive to Maine state employees within the executive branch.

It smacks of blaming the Legislature, MSEA-SEIU or both as being to fault for those employees not yet receiving their merit raises. The reality in speaking with the union’s leadership recently, is that the Governor himself has been the one who has been reluctant to meet with the union and as such, appears to be passively aggressively using the employees to force the union to agree to his demands.

He clearly states his position: “While I am just as eager to reach an agreement with MSEA as I was with our other three unions, I will do so only in a way that is beneficial to the State.

Which is to say that it’s his way or no way at all.

See for yourself.


    From: McGough, John
    Sent: Tuesday, July 02, 2013 2:27 PM
    Subject: Message from the Governor on Merit Pay

    The following message has been sent to you on behalf of Governor Paul R. LePage.


    Dear Executive Branch Employee:

    As you probably know, the Legislature recently passed a bill that will allow the State to pay merit increases to eligible employees on their anniversary dates. However, there is something you may not realize.

    Despite the Legislature “unfreezing” merit pay, these increases may not be awarded to some employees. After union contracts expire, state labor law legally prohibits me from authorizing merit increases for employees represented by a union without a new agreement with that union.

    Three of the state’s employee unions have reached more than one agreement with the State during my administration: AFSCME, the Maine State Troopers Association and the Maine State Law Enforcement Association. I am pleased that current negotiations have led to AFSCME’s ratification of a 2013-2015 contract. AFSCME employees who are eligible for merit increases this year will receive them. Our negotiations have also led to tentative two-year agreements with MSTA and MSLEA. If those contracts are ratified, the union members who are eligible for merit increases will receive them.

    However, we have been negotiating with MSEA for a successor to the 2009-2011 agreement for over two years. While I am just as eager to reach an agreement with MSEA as I was with our other three unions, I will do so only in a way that is beneficial to the State. Many of you have received communications from MSEA suggesting that its members may not receive merit increases and if that happens, then it is my fault. These communications also claim that all governors before me have paid merit increases whether there are contracts in effect or not. Both of these claims are misleading at best.

    If you are eligible for a merit increase and are in a bargaining unit that does not have a current contract, I urge you to contact your union representatives and explore with them how they might reach an agreement so you can receive your merit increase during this coming year.

    Lastly, there is another important issue you should be aware of. Although the Legislature “unfroze” merit increases for the State’s Executive Branch employees for one year, it restored them for employees of the Legislative and Judicial Branches for the next twoyears. As you may know, the Legislature and I did not agree on the best approach to the budget. But I am dismayed by the Legislature’s unabashed willingness to treat its own employees and those of the Judicial Branch better than they treat you.

    I know that you work just as hard at your jobs, and you do not deserve to be treated worse than employees in the other two branches of government. When the Legislature is not in session, employees in the legislative branch have far less work to do, but Executive Branch employees carry a full workload all year long. I intend to do whatever I can to remedy this shameless inequity.


    Paul R. LePage


So let’s look back, shall we?

First we have this, originally posted 27 Jun 2011.

From the MSEA-SEIU press release:

      Maine Workers Rally At State House; Call on Governor to Stop Attacks on Workers and Send Home New York City Lawyer

    Firefighters, teachers, millworkers, child care providers, snow plow drivers and other workers from across Maine converged on the State House on Saturday to show their support for state workers currently in contract negotiations with the LePage administration. Despite predictions of bad weather, hundreds turned out for a rally at the capitol.

Jonathan French of MDOT started off the rally:

    “What I see when I look out at all of you is the very fabric of our communities. Because of you, Maine is a place where our kids can learn and grow, where our roads are safe, where our communities and natural resources are protected, and where we are working together to build our economy. You make Maine a better place for all of us. Once again, workers have stepped up and offered to do our share. But instead of sitting down with us directly and talking about how we can work together, Governor LePage has chosen to create more conflict and pick yet another fight with Maine workers by bringing in a hatchet man from New York City.

    So while Maine workers have proposed no cost increases, the Governor is paying a New York City lawyer at least $295 an hour to dismantle workers’ rights and core protections. This is not only irresponsible; it’s not how we treat each other in Maine.”

Emery Deabay, Vice President of Eastern Maine Labor Council, member of United Steelworkers Local #1188 and employed at the Versco paper Mill in Bucksport, spoke next.

    “Whether you’re from Caribou or Kittery, or somewhere in between, no matter where you live, Maine DOT workers work for everyone. We keep Maine moving. 

    If a tree goes down, or if there’s a washout, 2 feet of snow, freezing rain, anything that gets in the way of safe passage of a Maine highway or bridge, Maine DOP workers are there in a moment’s notice to fix things and make them right. When a DOT plow truck goes by during a nor’easter, everyone knows they’ll be back to their normal routine in no time at all. Everyone knows that the hardworking men and women at the Maine DOT and our brothers and sisters at the Maine Turnpike Authority are the best at what they do. And it’s a good thing we are the best- living in a state like Maine, right?

    With the Maine DOT, every inch of Maine highway is maintained to the same specifications. In my DOT region, which covers a quarter of the state, over the years we’ve gone from 400 people taking care of the roads to 168 workers. That’s a pretty tight crew to cover such a huge part of our state. We’re efficient. We’re accountable..

    And we’re working at hourly wages much lower than what the private sector pays for the same work. That’s just a plain fact. It was documented in a labor market survey that the State of Maine recently paid over $50,000 to conduct. You know, they could have saved that money just by talking to a DOT worker.”

MDOT Milo Crew Leader Tony Gonzales:

    “My coworkers at Maine DHHS and I work hand in hand with Maine families, community leaders, and community organizations to help keep all Maine families safe, all Maine families together, and all of our communities strong. This is critically important work, because with a strong family foundation and community support, all Maine children will have the opportunity to make the most of their abilities as they pursue their dreams and help make this world a better place for all of us. Our ability to have a voice in determining issues like our working conditions is central to our ability to work as public servants with the highest levels of accountability.

    So I am here today to thank you for the support for the work that we do. I am also here to show my support for the work that all of you do. I’m showing my support because all Maine workers make our communities strong. All Maine workers make our economy strong. And all Maine workers deserve to be treated with respect for the work that they do.”

Maine DHHS case worker, MSEA-SEIU Local #1989 member Dean Staffieri:

    “I understand the very tough financial challenges so many Maine people are facing. We are all making sacrifices and I know our local leaders are struggling to maintain staffing levels that will keep our schools and public safety systems strong. And I think I can speak for every parent here when I say how important it is to be part of a community where we work together and support each other- where our kids can get a good education and where our families are supported and safe. That is what this country, and especially Maine, are all about.

    So what I don’t understand is why the Governor has made it his personal mission to undercut hard-working Maine families like mine. This isn’t the Maine I grew up in. This isn’t the Maine where we use common sense and fairness to solve problems. This isn’t the Maine where everyone gets a shot at living the American dream.

    The Governor’s attacks on working people are taking this state in the wrong direction. It’s time to re-knit the tears in our community fabric and start working together again.”

Maine Department of Corrections’ Kelly Carr:

Conclusion by Jonathan French:

And then there is this 1 Jul 2011 story:

    LePage, NYC Lawyer Walks Out of MSEA-SEIU Contract Negotiations

    Dirigo Blue broke the story this morning

    After 6 straight days of negotiations over a new contract, representatives for Gov. LePage walked out of contract talks last night at 11:40 p.m.
    The contract between the State and its 10,000 employees expired at midnight.From a press release, one union negotiating team member, Andrea LaPointe, an employee at the DEP, had this:

    “The Governor has proposed cutting wages for workers who protect our communities from dangerous criminals in our prison system and for workers who care for patients with severe mental health disorders in our state mental health institutions. We are ready to settle this contract and we truly hope that our Governor is ready as well.
    There is an “evergreen” provision in which the current contract remains in effect for 90 days, along time for further negotiations.”

    From Bangor Daily News:


    Negotiations ended just before midnight with MSEA offering a two-year extension on the current terms and the state countering with a one-year extension under different terms. One of the outstanding issues is compensation for workers engaged in union activities.

    The Maine Democratic Party issued the following press release:


    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:LePage Walks Out of Contract Negotiations

    “Governor LePage and his New York City lawyer need to stop dragging their feet and get the job done.”

    AUGUSTA- On June 30th, Governor Paul LePage and his New York lawyer walked out of contract negotiations with the state employees union, just as workers were ready to make an agreement.

    Maine Democratic Party Chairman Ben Grant released this statement:

    “This is a classic example of Governor LePage’s ‘my way or the highway attitude.’ He didn’t think he was going to get what he wanted, so like a frustrated child he took his ball and went home – all the while he’s costing taxpayers more money. In one month we’ve paid his lawyers $50,000 – that’s more than most Maine workers make in a year.”

    “He has shown a complete lack of respect and disregard for Maine workers since he took office. Last night’s walk out was the latest in a continual stream of attacks. First it was the budget, then it was fair share, now it’s contract negotiations, he just won’t give up.

    “Governor LePage and his New York City lawyer need to stop dragging their feet and get the job done. The state employees are ready to bargain – why isn’t he?”

And now we wait to see what happens next.

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