Maine state workers have struggled all year long to get the Mills Administration to bring an acceptable pay increase to the bargaining table, and those struggles continued as Mainers prepared for Labor Day weekend.
Thursday evening talks between the Mills Admin and the Maine Service Employees Association (MSEA) failed yet again to reach an agreement, according to an email delivered to MSEA members by the union bargaining team.
According to the email, the state has now offered a five percent pay increase for executive branch workers in October 2023, three percent in October 2024, and four percent in 2025.
That’s hardly in the same solar system as the request initially proposed by the MSEA, Maine’s second largest labor union.
The MSEA initially proposed a $5.00 per hour increase to all state worker wages plus an additional 22 percent increase — both effective this year — followed by a 15 percent increase in 2024.
The MSEA has rejected the Mills Administration’s latest offer, which came as a package along with small concessions of mileage reimbursement increases and other fringe benefits.
“We rejected the state’s package as it still did not get us to a pay increase needed nor does it fully address some of the other key areas,” the MSEA bargaining team said.
The current contract will expire on Labor Day, though that mostly means a continuation of the status quo.
The MSEA were core supporters of Gov. Janet Mills election and re-election campaigns, and they’ve endorsed and campaign for nearly every Democratic candidate for legislative office in Maine in recent years.
The MSEA’s national affiliate, the SEIU, is also a generous donor to Democratic campaign committees.
But despite all of that support, state workers have found themselves without a friend in the Blaine House.
Even despite the unprecedented amount of federal money sloshing around state coffers, with several recent budget surpluses and increases in revenue forecasts, MSEA members have yet to see any benefit from their investment of time, effort, and money in helping get Democrats elected.
Indeed, the collective bargaining between Mills’ lead negotiator, Breena Bissel, and the MSEA has been more rancorous than ever.
In the spring, the MSEA filed a prohibited practices complaint against the Mills Administration with the Maine Labor Relations Board.
That complaint alleged that Mills’ bargaining team was engaging in bad faith negotiating.
Last month, MSEA members grew so frustrated with the failed talks and lowball offers, that members on a collective bargaining Zoom call openly speculated about engaging in illegal tactics, like work stoppages and sick outs.
The email concluded by inviting state workers to the Central Maine Labor Council BBQ and the “Rolling Rally to Close the Pay Gap.”