“A stinky infestation" — that is a description of the union leadership’s influence on Maine’s Democratic Party. It did not originate with me. I have long known that union leadership has had a lot to say and that the Democrats listen to them, but I would not have gone so far myself until informed of the full extent of their clout.
The gifted phrase-maker of “a stinky infestation,” who summed up the situation for me, is the 2010-2012 Assistant House Democratic Whip Terry Hayes, D-Buckfield.
Rep. Hayes is by no means a crypto-Republican. I know for certain that GOP state Chairman Charlie Webster had high hopes of defeating her in both the 2010 and 2012 elections because of her narrow victories in previous elections.
Nor is the Representative easily identified as an enemy of the unions. When she taught in the public schools, she was a willing dues-payer to the MEA. The AFL-CIO gave her an 88 percent "pro-worker" rating on her 2011 votes and a total rating of 94 percent for 1011-2012.
Those ratings are way higher than the 25 percent rating the organization gave to the moderate Republican Sen. Roger Katz in 2011, or the 25 percent they gave to the still more moderate Rep. Chris Rector. Even Sen. Richard Woodbury, the independent, could manage only a paltry 50 percent in that year.
The problem is that the union leadership is not content with sympathy for their members or mere agreement on specific issues. What they demand from the Democrats, according to Rep. Hayes, is absolute obedience. They had never taught her to goose-step properly, so when she ran for the office of House Speaker, some of the union titans called her colleagues in the Democratic caucus forbidding them to vote for her.
They did not call to support the winner, Rep. Mark Eves. Apparently they simply assumed that all the other candidates for party leadership could be relied upon to obey. They were concerned only that they could not count a Speaker Terry Hayes to “go fetch” when commanded.
They might also have reckoned that her punishment for previous acts of independence would be a useful warning to the new Democratic leadership in the legislature.
Their most basic problem with Hayes may be found in her statement of principle quoted in “A Citizen’s Guide to the 124th Maine Legislature.” There, she said she supports the right of workers to unionize but does not “support using the Legislature as an agent of collective bargaining.”
Her view, as explained to me on the telephone, is that appropriate contract bargaining should be between the union representatives and the responsible management. Pressure exerted by union leadership on the Democratic legislators to frame the negotiating terms does not square with her concept of “bargaining.”
As a freshman legislator in 2007, she voted against a union-inspired bill to allow in-home day-care providers to make the unions their representative through a legislative act. In fact she voted “no” seven times in seven separate roll calls.
She received what she describes as a severe tongue-lashing from Chris Quint, executive director of the Maine State Employees Association, when she voted with her Republican colleagues to repeal that bill earlier this year. Quint subsequently apologized for his verbal excesses, but it now appears that he neither forgot nor forgave her obstinate independence.
Representative Terry Hayes will remain a Democrat. She will remain supportive of the concerns of the union membership. But her independence will, if anything, increase. She told me that.
Everything the Republicans have been saying about the Democratic leadership’s dependence on the unions is true; but their influence over Terry Hayes is at an end. Liberated from the constraints that party leadership imposed on her, she will devote the remainder of her tenure in office to organizing a bi-partisan caucus devoted to formulating “data-driven” economic development legislation without regard to the claims of the special interests.
Her thinking now seems in accord with that of an opinion column written by Eliot Cutler at the beginning of his 2010 independent campaign for governor. Cutler explained that the Maine Democratic Party had become a tool of special interests, singling out the Maine Education Association in particular. It turns out to be all too true.
Professor John Frary of Farmington is a former U.S. Congress candidate and retired history professor, a board member of Maine Taxpayers United and an associate editor of the International Military Encyclopedia.