In a move meant to send a message to Maine’s blue-collar workers, U.S. Rep. Jared Golden invited Cynthia Phinney of Livermore Falls, president of Maine’s AFL-CIO, to be his guest at Tuesday’s State of the Union speech.

“One of my top priorities in Congress is fighting for Maine’s working people,” the 2nd Congressional District Democrat said Friday. “That’s something Cynthia has done every day for decades.”

“I am feeling tremendously honored,” Phinney said Friday. She said “it’s a big deal” to be among the few able to attend “this most symbolic and substantial event.”

Members of Congress get a single guest ticket for the annual presidential address. While some give them to family or friends, a growing number use the opportunity to put a face to issues they want to highlight.

Golden, who took office last month, has championed labor issues long before he won office in a close election in November, Phinney said.

Though she has “plenty of disagreements” with the president, she said, she is eager “to see him real and in-person and unedited.”


She said she hopes she’ll get to hear Trump lay out an agenda that will offer help to working people on issues such as trade and health care while avoiding planks that contribute to the polarization of America.

“Working people will be looking to our president for real solutions to our country’s problems that do not simply divide and fracture us as a nation, but that create opportunities for all of us to succeed,” Phinney said.

“Cynthia and I are both focused on making sure we put workers and good jobs ahead of politics,” Golden said.

“We’ll be listening for the president to make the case for trade policies that keep jobs in America, raise wages and create economic opportunity for working people all over Maine,” Golden said.

According to the Maine AFL-CIO, the federation of more than 160 local labor unions represents more than 40,000 workers and retirees across the state.

Trump is slated to speak to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday evening in a nationally televised address. He had originally planned to speak on Jan. 25, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi refused to let him while the federal government was in a partial shutdown.


Congress reopened the government days later, but a new mid-February deadline looms to resolve budget issues that could lead to another closure of many federal functions unless Trump and members of Congress reach a deal.

Though the drama surrounding a State of the Union speech is normally far less, the address has long been an important national event that draws attention from politicians and the public.

As it has become an ever-larger stage, politicians have rushed to take advantage of the opportunity by issuing coveted invitations to advance their own agendas.

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat from the 1st Congressional District, invited climate change activist Joel Clement of Falmouth to showcase her commitment to addressing global warming.

The Republican incumbent defeated by Golden, Bruce Poliquin, invited Maine veterans to each of the past two State of the Union addresses that he attended.

Phinney joined the union in 1992 while working as a meter reader for Central Maine Power.


Later hired by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1837 as an organizer, she moved up through the union ranks before winning election as president of Maine’s AFL-CIO in 2015.

Phinney said that while she’s been to Washington before, and talked to politicians in their Capitol Hill offices, she’s never walked into the Capitol.

That’s something she is looking forward to, she said, because the building “is the heart of the people’s government.”

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Cynthia Phinney (File photo)

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