D. Loudermilk: A wakeup call for solidarity

I thank Gov. Paul LePage and the new majority leadership in Augusta for the wake-up call.

This governor came into office and the first thing he did was sucker punch organized labor right in the mouth. He gave marching orders to his majority to attack organized labor and Maine workers at every turn.

Their first act was to remove the labor mural from the walls of the Department of Labor. Then they turned on the Maine state workers by attacking their earned pension. They repealed the right to form a union for workers at DeCoster’s and other factory egg farms, rolled back child labor laws which protect Maine’s minors, made it more difficult to get by for workers with the most severe on-the-job injuries by limiting workers' compensation, passed a bill that punishes laid-off workers, repealed collective bargaining rights for child care providers, and made it easier to classify workers as “independent contractors” instead of employees — which means workers go without the protections of basic labor laws, workers' compensation and unemployment insurance.

It is too bad it took these attacks to wake us up and revive a sense of true solidarity in Maine organized labor. So now that we’re awake, we shall keep fighting all the way to November.

Danny N. Loudermilk Jr., Auburn

Editor's note: Danny Loudermilk Jr. is president of Local S7, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, Bath Iron Works

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MARK GRAVEL's picture

Danny, Perhaps Governor

Danny,

Perhaps Governor LePage punched the correct bully in the mouth!
When the so called “earned pension” are breaking the back of the taxpayer or employer, then it is time to knock it for a loop.

It is time that organized labor realize that changes in the global labor markets give privately owned business at least alternatives to high labor costs.

Joe Morin's picture

Danny

Being a member of the local S7 in Bath you deal with labor contracts negotiated with General Dynamics I'm assuming. Being of a family where many have worked at the yard and having a father who has been a union member at BIW for over 30 years, there is a huge diffrence between collective bargaining in the private sector compared to the public sector. You guys at the yard are negotiating with the worlds 4th largest defense contractor. While public employees are negotiating with their neighbors. To try to form both into a single rallying cry is imprudent because they are two completely different dynamics.

 's picture

If ever there was a deserving

If ever there was a deserving recipient of a punch, of any kind, it's organized labor. "OL", cousin to "OC", has had free rein in this state for far too long. Hopefully their new role as punching bag will expand nationwide. On Wisconsin!

Betty Davies's picture

Should workers never advocate for themselves?

It sounds as if you believe that all workers should be forced to accept whatever working conditions any employer chooses to demand of them, and that they must not be permitted to join with one another to advocate for better treatment. (And please don't tell me that workers have their choice of dozens of jobs so they could quickly find themselves a new employer rather than negotiate with the current one.)

Is this extremely passive attitude one that you yourself use in your daily life? Or do you only apply it to others?

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Betty, While people have the

Betty,
While people have the right to collective bargain, private businesses also have a right to take their operations elsewhere. This mutual freedom tends to temper employee demands.

However, this is not the case when applied to the private sector. Federal, State, and local governments are held hostage to union demands; Governments are immobile. Moreover, there appears to be cooperation between organized labor and politicians in some cases that hang the taxpayer out to dry.

As a taxpayer, the later cannot be allowed to continue.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Sheep need the shepherd do

Sheep need the shepherd do their nogotiating for them. People, supposedly higher up the food chain, were born to negotiate for themselves. Unions are a disincentive to productivity.

Betty Davies's picture

Do you ever vote?

Have you ever voted in any local, state, or federal election? Or do you believe in negotiating with other communities, states, and nations all on your lonesome, rather than being a "sheep" who elects politicians who do that?

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

I've never paid dues to a

I've never paid dues to a politician nor has one ever signed a paycheck for me. Be loyal to an employer who is loyal to you and you don't need a union steward to represent you.

Zack Lenhert's picture

" to an employer who is loyal

" to an employer who is loyal to you" Here lies the fault of your argument against the need for unions... That type of employer seems to be rapidly becoming extinct.

I have read, not sure where, that most common way to increase ones salary is to find a new job. Where are the employee training programs anymore? You see it all the time with big business, when they need to replace a CEO for example, it always seems like its from outside the organization. Businesses don't seem to be investing in their own employees.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Zack, For better or worse,

Zack,

For better or worse, globalization, and to a larger extend automation, has created a surplus of labor. Many employers have alternatives.

You may dislike this phenomenon, but ignoring it may mean the demise of your job due to labor's demands.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Every word you say is true.

Every word you say is true. But unions are not the answer; a strong economy and a healthy job market are. oBAMa has provided neither. Unions are to productivity what an empty gas tank is to high velocity.

Zack Lenhert's picture

If business is an engine I

If business is an engine I think of unions more like a seat belt for the workers.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Zack, Alternatively, unions

Zack,

Alternatively, unions can be thought of overloading the engine's capacity to pull the load of the unions. The engine simple shuts down, and workers are left on the side of the road with no economic transportation.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

If business is an engine,

If business is an engine, unions are the rev limiter on the accelerator.

Betty Davies's picture

Skyrocketing CEO pay...

is the hole in the gas tank that drains away money that might otherwise go toward paying a living wage to the workers who actually produce the product or services that are enriching the company.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Based on what I'm reading in

Based on what I'm reading in these posts, the unions are supposed to be taking care of that. You mean they're not?

Betty Davies's picture

Pretty hard to do, with conservatives undercutting workers

People who consider themselves to be conservatives seem to be working night and day to undercut unions; they appear to want to "conserve" sky-high CEO pay rather than to advocate for themselves (assuming they work) and other workers to be paid a decent wage and have decent benefits and pensions.

The CEOs' pay goes straight to the Cayman Islands and other off-shore hiding places, with just a bit left in the US to pay for their servants. Workers' pay gets spent in the workers' own communities.

We've been giving the ultra-wealthy tax breaks, letting them get away with polluting our land, air, water, and food, and agreeing that too-big-to-fail (ha!) banks and Wall Street shouldn't be subject to pesky regulations that might protect the rest of us. Yet they still haven't rewarded us with plentiful jobs--they keep whining that we have to do more and more for them, and slash social services to the neediest among us, or they'll take even more of their marbles offshore. I doubt it would be possible to satisfy them, and I'm not interested in continuing to try.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

That was indeed, once the

That was indeed, once the case. And, I'll grant you that in the private sector with corporations seemingly becoming more ruthless, unions may have their niche. But I do not believe that unions belong in the public sector of the workforce; ie, law enforcement, firefighters, teachers, etc. They stand as a wedge between the workers (all taxpayers) and their employers (the rest of the taxpayers.) You've got people earning $600 bucks a week supporting (through taxes and budgets) many who are earning $1200 and $1500 bucks a week (only because they have union representation). Just doesn't seem right. I've never been able to wrap my head around paying someone to negotiate my wages for me.

Betty Davies's picture

You pay "dues" to elected representatives via taxes

And union officials do not sign their members' paychecks, if that's what you were implying.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Not in the contract? 0O:-)

Not in the contract? 0O:-)

 's picture

I have used this attitude all my working life.

There's nothing passive about it, Betty. When I looked into a job and found conditions (salary, benefits, ...) not to my liking, I negotiated and/or looked elsewhere. If I lived in an area where I couldn't find a job I wanted, I moved.

What I did not do was join a union and try to extort from an employer something he couldn't afford to do or something that didn't fit with his view of how a company should operate.

Also in all my working life, I have never had or met even one employer who was out to exploit anyone. To imply that most employers do is just union propaganda. On the contrary, Betty, the real passive attitude is to pay some dues and hand your responsibilities off to others because of vague hand-waving about supporting the "workin' people".

Zack Lenhert's picture

"What I did not do was join a

"What I did not do was join a union and try to extort from an employer something he couldn't afford to do or something that didn't fit with his view of how a company should operate."

How is this any different than a business joining a business association in order to get the lowest possible price from wholesalers? Its using the power of numbers in negotiations. Why is that wrong when employees do it?

 's picture

Must be nice...

...to have enough money to "do what you want to do, go where you want to go" for a job. Sounds like you didn't need a job in the first place. If you've never met an employer out to exploit anyone, you haven't "worked" in too many places. Some people have to take what they can get wherever they are and you can't tell me they aren't exploited. You talk about Union propaganda like folks can't figure out what propaganda is and isn't. Your entire letter pre-supposes people are too dumb to know what they're doing. The result - you're part of the one percent. And certainly not "working people." In fact, you've probably exploited real working people for your own gain and would have cheered had not Bath Iron Works, Maine's largest employer, and it's employees reached agreement and put all those exploited people who don't understand union propaganda out of work.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Bob, You start to lose

Bob,

You start to lose credibility when you throw out those wild claims targeted a one individual.

I challenge you to show your proof, or retract your claims!

 's picture

Here's my proof...

These comments are directed toward every union member in the state. They imply every union worker knowingly joins a union to extort money from an employer. “...extort from an employer...”
“I have never had or met even one employer who was out to exploit anyone. You can't possibly believe that. To imply that most employers do is just union propaganda.” This implies every employer, EVERY EMPLOYER, is pristine and has never done anything untoward to any employee. I have been a victim of this not once, but twice, once with a union, once without a union.
“...the real passive attitude is to pay some dues and hand your responsibilities off to others because of vague hand-waving about supporting the "workin' people". This implies all union members have no brains and cannot figure things out for themselves, they are just unthinking, ignorant lemmings. I suppose you believe that.
I worked at a place that was non-union. The workers wanted to form a union. Despite all the underhanded tricks the company attempted to prevent the vote, I still voted against forming a union, one of five negative votes. There were 39 in favor and a union was formed. I think 39-5 is fairly decisive. It's what my co-workers wanted. I joined the union. The dirty tricks didn't stop. As an example, employees found bad reviews in their folders without ever being notified they were there. The company brought in a new "manager" who wasn't a manager at all. He specialized in union-breaking. He was not successful. A few weeks later, we found out why all this was happening. The company was to be "right sized," not down sized, right sized, and the company would be free to do what ever it wanted if the union disappeared. It didn't, and as a result, those being right sized were given a decent separation package, something that probably wouldn't have happened without a union. It was to have been my last job and I retired. Didn't like it so I went back to work for another 13 years at a wonderful company, non-union, that treated it's employees wonderfully, as did two other non-union companies I worked for prior to the union job. I think you can see, for the most part, I prefer a non-union shop. But I also learned how helpful a union can be. To have an individual cast a blanket over an entire group of people, as the gentleman I was replying to did, is inexcusable, union or non-union. He is trying to move his agenda forward without regard to other people's feelings. We don't do that in Maine. At least we didn't before we got a business first governor. Just today, the papers announced our bond rating may go down, thanks to the programs of our business first governor. People (read government) need to talk with one another and come up with reasonable laws, not just say the hell with it and jam laws down our throats.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Bob, Ever consider that the

Bob,

Ever consider that the company “right sized” because you became unionized labor force, and therefore, would not have “right sized” if the labor force did not unionize?

Freedom is a two-way street, freedom for labor to organize and freedom of companies to resist! Do you want to restrict freedom?

“People (read government) need to talk with one another and come up with reasonable laws, not just say the hell with it and jam laws down our throats.”

Standard response when you don’t agree with the policies. I feel the same way when new taxes are rammed down my throat.
Perhaps the solution is smaller government, like in a part time legislature . The premise is that smaller government makes fewer laws for all to hate.

 's picture

No..

That had been pre-determined long before the union came in. I could explain but I really don't want to name the company and I've been too long-winded all ready. No. I don't want to restrict freedom. Neither do I think dirty tricks are the way to go about it. And your responses have been a standard response when you do agree with the policies. Kind of like the pot calling the kettle black.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

The actual takeaway should be

The actual takeaway should be smaller government is better government. That said, I disagree with most new legislation regardless of the source.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

If people were not too dumb

If people were not too dumb to know what they're doing they wouldn't need the unions to point them to their work stations. Your accusations to Mr. Leblanc, whom you don't even know other than you disagree with him, are totally unfounded.

 's picture

Just replying...

...in kind. In case you didn't read his post, he called a lot of people a lot of names, people he doesn't even know. They were totally unfounded.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Well stated, Mike.

Well stated, Mike.

Betty Davies's picture

Good luck finding a new job these days

You readily found new employment, but that has become increasingly impossible these days.

You've been extraordinarily fortunate never to have had an employer who makes unreasonable demands.

I disagree with your assertion that negotiation = "extortion."

Union members are often quite active on their own behalf by joining; electing union officials who support their views; and paying the dues. Electing people who advocate for your interests does not equate to handing over one's own responsibilities to others. Quite the opposite.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Betty, Unemployment amongst

Betty,
Unemployment amongst people with a college education was 4.3% that last I checked.

Unemployment amongst unskilled workers was 10.3% comparatively in the same timeframe. The point spread between the two statistics is telling..

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

All for the purpose of

All for the purpose of forcing the company to provide wages and benefits it can't afford to provide. One of the biggest problems the U.S. auto industry faces is unfunded or underfunded retirement pensions where people earn as much as or more than they earned when working; for the rest of their lives.

Betty Davies's picture

Golden parachutes...

CEOs regularly get "golden parachutes," whether in the form of multi-million dollar retirement packages or severance pay (including when they've been let go for wrongdoing).

I have no problem with workers having retirement benefits that permit them to continue to enjoy a decent standard of living until the day they die. Unfunded? Then it's about time the company funded it--if they can afford to pay a CEO hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

Workers create work product, goods and services. They should not have to face poverty in retirement.

 's picture

Luck had nothing to do with it.

You describe a very idealistic view of the unions and their activities. If that is how you have experienced them, then you too are extraordinarily fortunate. That idealism seems to have all but disappeared from the private sector, along with unions and the jobs and members they were so very concerned about. Whatever the zeal for advocacy, it makes no sense to "negotiate" a company or an entire industry out of business or off shore.

The idealism remains in the public sector, for the most part, especially where unions negotiate with themselves, the folks on the other side of the table being Democrat politicians. If past performance is a reliable predictor of the future, we will soon see entire states forced into bankruptcy. A very few are wising up and trying to move back from the brink.

Betty Davies's picture

No need for unions once all workers are peasants

My dad, a laborer, had a decent (though not affluent) retirement thanks to his union. My own retirement (which has not yet occured--and might never occur), and that of my husband, is at risk thanks to Republican politics and policies.

The general "conservative" stance appears to be that any effort by American workers to improve their pay, benefits, working conditions, or pensions forces companies to move out of the country. Once Americans finally resign themselves to 3rd world wages and working conditions, the companies will deign to return to our shores.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Betty, The fact that you

Betty,

The fact that you blame only Republicans reveals your hues of jade.

Both Republicans and Democrats have negotiated free trade agreements that open foreign markets to goods, services, and LABOR as an example.

In my opinion, anyone who blames a particular political party or looks to a particular political party for salvation is blind to reality.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

You were doing all right

You were doing all right until you blamed the instability of your retirement on Republican politics and policies. C'mon, Betty, you can come up with a better reason than that. We know you hate republicans, we get that. Banks, the stock market, Katrina, 9-11, republicans were responsible for all those things, eh? How about Solyndra's collapse, or the $2 billion loss at JC Morgan; republican policies, too?

Betty Davies's picture

Very brief reply...

Katrina repairs: "Heck of a job, Brownie!" quote President Bush, upon seeing nothig useful having been accomplished.

Wall Street and bank failures--Republican leaders arguing relentlessly against regulation that would lessent he chances of such catastrophes (yet wanting to force seniors into invensting into stock market by privating Social Security--increasing the risk of utter poverty for seniors while lining traders' pockets with commissions.

Now, I'm going to spend the weekend resting up for a 50-hour work week and gardening. You go relax and have some fun in the sun (or shade), too. We can pick this up again at any point.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Enjoy your weekend.

Enjoy your weekend.

Betty Davies's picture

typo

Resting up FROM a 50-hour work week, though it's true another's coming right up.

 's picture

Politics...

...before people.

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