The recent announcement by Maine’s second largest union, MSEA-SEIU Local 1989, that it has filed a prohibited practices complaint with the Maine Labor Relations Board against Governor Janet Mills and her administration got my attention. The complaint alleges that her Administration engaged in bad-faith bargaining and used unlawful tactics.
My first reaction when contacted for comment was that this is a ‘family squabble’ between a union that exclusively supports Democrats, including Janet Mills, to the exclusion of Republicans. The same union that represents workers at the Maine Turnpike Authority, Community College System, Maine Maritime Academy, and Maine’s Judicial Department is continually silent when Republicans support pro-worker legislation favored by their members.
Still, the recent communication from President Dean Staffieri to state union members read cannot go unnoticed. “Today we filed charges of labor law violations over management’s continued refusal to come to the table and bargain,” said Staffieri. It is surprising to me that the Administration would not want to fairly hear the views of a union that represents over 5,000 executive branch employees.
Maine Republicans are increasingly the party of workers. That shift has been occurring for a number of years. For evidence of this, one only has to look at who represents Maine mills towns and working class communities formerly represented by Democrats.
We have Republican House members representing Millinocket, Skowhegan, Sanford, Rumford, Mexico, and Jay, just to name a few. The Maine communities most immune to the unprecedented price increases for everyday necessities required to survive are the communities not represented by Republicans. The negative trends we are all experiencing are increasingly giving Republicans an opportunity to expand our party.
As the party of workers and their families, Maine House Republicans believe the affected union members and their bargaining units have a right to be heard. I am supporting MSEA-SEUI Local 1989 on this one because I support the fundamental rights of its members to negotiate fairly. Negotiating is fundamental to maintaining good working conditions, and fair wages. Failure to allow negotiations to take place is a betrayal of the workers that make our state government function.
I have not always supported every union demand, nor will I. House Republicans are committed to the success of all Mainers without favoring some individual groups over others. But, I will always support the rights of workers to negotiate fairly. I may not care for the exclusive devotion of MSEA-SEIU Local 1989 to Democrat office holders and seekers, but I do care for their members and their right to be heard.
Rep. Billy Bob Faulkingham (R-Winterport) is the Maine House Republican Leader.