AUGUSTA – Democratic lawmakers on Friday used procedural tricks to kill a bipartisan proposal to protect Maine state workers from the state-abetted wage garnishment on behalf of government workers unions.
Rep. Lawrence E. Lockman (R-Amherst), lead sponsor of L.D. 786, An Act To Ensure the Voluntary Membership of Public Employees in Unions, said Sen. John L. Patrick (D-Rumford), Co-chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Labor, Commerce, and Economic Development (LCRED), motioned to close debate during Friday’s work session before it even began.
Lockman said Patrick’s decision to silence discussion on his bill prevented him from introducing an amendment he had crafted with the bill’s co-sponsors, including Assistant House Majority Leader Rep. Theresea M. Hayes (D-Buckfield).
“I told Terry Hayes I was going to amend the bill to strip it down so it’s a straight repeal of the 2007 mandatory withholding, and she was elated,” said Lockman.
“The unions survived for decades without mandatory withholding, so this shouldn’t hurt them,” he said. “If state workers don’t want to have dues automatically taken out of their paychecks, they should be able to opt out and pay them on their own accord.”
In addition to ending the state’s six-year old practice of collecting dues for the Maine State Employees Association’s (MSEA) and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) via mandatory wage garnishment of state workers’ paychecks, Lockman’s original proposal would have forced MSEA to hold annual elections and apply for recertification yearly – two things union leaders and pro-labor Democrats found highly objectionable during an earlier public hearing for the bill on Monday.
“The bill as it was written had too many excuses for Democrats to vote no,” he said. “Our intention was to take those excuses away.”
The Democrats decision to end debate over the bill swiftly effectively foreclosed any opportunity at compromise.
Hayes, the only Democrat to co-sponsor the bill, was surprised by the Democrats’ parliamentary maneuver. “If one’s position is strong, it will withstand a dialogue about alternatives, and that dialogue didn’t happen,” said Hayes.
Lockman was also stunned by Patrick’s overt partisanship and fidelity to union leaders.
Said Lockman, “I was surprised and disappointed that Chairman Patrick went to such lengths to shut down my amendment and do whatever he could to prevent a debate in the committee or on the floor.”
“The unions’ influence over the legislative process was made clear today.”
By S.E. Robinson
MAINE WIRE Reporter