Workers deserve thanks

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Lewiston-Auburn has a proud heritage as a center of working families in Maine — a place where immigrants could make good union wages, support their families and enjoy the American dream. That dream was stolen by unpatriotic corporations bent on maximizing profits rather than seeing working families earn a decent living.

Yet, instead of calling out the CEOs of the corporations, banks and insurance companies driving our nation’s economy into the ground, the Sun Journal (editorial, March 17) rails against the restoration of longevity pay — 30 to 50 cents per hour — for the likes of Maine’s experienced plow drivers and highway workers, nurses in the two state psychiatric hospitals, child protective workers, public health nurses and workers in other publicly owned institutions such as the Maine State Library and Range Ponds State Park.

It’s sad to see the Sun Journal’s willingness to embrace the corporate attitude that employees are of no value, that loyalty and service to the same job for the same employer deserves zero recognition, that most employees only do their job and aren’t learning new skills, and that performance is sub par. This attitude isn’t rooted in the reality of American workers. It’s rooted in protecting bottom lines. And your total lack of facts and fact-checking takes a back seat only to clichés attacking public workers.

Here are facts: State employees have taken numerous cuts over the past eight years. They have forgone raises to help balance the state budget. There are 1,000 fewer state employees than when Gov. Baldacci took office, yet the expectations of Maine people to receive the same level of services has not changed.

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State employees are losing 20 days of pay in the current two-year budget in addition to the removal of longevity pay from their paychecks and the freeze on merit pay.

A state worker pays $4,766.64 per year to insure a spouse and child. A state worker also pays $466.70 annually toward his or her own insurance, plus a $400 annual family deductible and co-pays of $10 for each doctor’s visit, $15 to specialists and $10, $30 or $45 per prescription.

State employees have made sacrifices. Some have lost their jobs. Members of our union have provided dozens of cost-saving ideas to the governor and the Appropriations Committee.

The editorial’s inference that state employees just “take a seat” while working is offensive and wrong. Perhaps the Sun Journal’s editorial board could spend a day working behind the counter at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, flagging traffic on I-295 in August, interviewing applicants for state assistance, spending an evening at a psychiatric hospital, or answering calls at Maine Revenue Services during tax season. These workers deserve thanks, not ridicule. They keep Maine moving.

Bruce Hodsdon, Port Clyde

President, Maine State Employees Association, SEIU Local 1989

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