On June 26, the Sun Journal published a guest column by John McGough regarding the contract negotiations between the state of Maine and workers who are represented by the Maine State Employees Association. Several of his points were laughable at best and totally misleading.
Yes, the MSEA did offer a status quo on the contract; raise freeze and merit pay freeze included. They did not and have not requested raises of any kind as they are aware of the financial situation the state is in.
Mr. McGough is concerned that the negotiations are costing taxpayers money, but he fails to mention the lawyer from Manhattan who was hired at $300 per hour (plus expenses) to come to Maine to help negotiate the contract. Apparently there are no good lawyers in Maine who could do the same job for less. Not to mention that the lawyer in question works for a major firm that specializes in union-busting tactics.
He states that the proposed changes would not prevent state employees from doing their jobs safely. Does that mean that eliminating cut-proof gloves for prison guards would improve safety while searching prisoners and their cells for knives, needles or other weapons?
He spoke of savings to be gained by stopping the phone subsidy for 1,800 state workers. How many of those people are on call 24/7, or their position mandates them having a phone? How many members of the public would use their personal phones for work purposes and not expect any kind of reimbursement?
The question of fair share (non-union members having to pay a small amount to the MSEA) was mentioned as being part of the negotiations. Now I'm confused, as that issue is being addressed under LD 309 (written with help from that high priced lawyer). The bill, which addresses the exact same issue, was tabled and set to be brought up again in January. So why is it even on the table? Perhaps Gov. Paul LePage now knows that many Republicans will not support the effort, knowing now that it is nothing more than a union-busting tactic.
McGough also made a point of comparing the wage differences of many people. Going by his theory, if I work for the state, then I should expect to be poorly paid with little or no benefits because that is how many in the private sector are treated. Rather than bring the state employees down, would it not be better that we all demanded that we bring ourselves up? Or is making a good wage with benefits somehow un-American or anti-business and therefore not good for Maine?
This past legislative session has been extremely anti-labor and the contract negotiations are but a continuation.
Joseph Mailey, Auburn
Member, Local 17, Sheet Metal Workers' International Association