North Woods North Star

Log hauler Stacey Kelly speaking alongside loggers at a press conference at the State House.
Dan Neumann

After years of dealing with an intransigent governor, the Maine AFL-CIO is advancing a pro-labor agenda in the state after victories at the ballot box last year. With their endorsed candidate for governor elected to the Maine House with strong union support, the door is now open for opportunities to pass meaningful legislation for the working people of Maine.

Meanwhile in the legislature, Senate President Troy Jackson, a member of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT), has been a strong advocate for a number of pro-worker policies. Along with a number of other union members elected to state office through the Maine AFL-CIO union candidates program, working people in Maine have a reason to believe that real change is achievable, and the Maine AFL-CIO is leading the way.  

Working together with Machinists (IAM) District 4, the Maine AFL-CIO is supporting an effort by a group of North Woods loggers and wood haulers to urge lawmakers in Augusta to support a bill that would grant them the right to organize. The woods workers, who recently formed the New England Loggers Cooperative/IAM, are advocating for legislation that would allow loggers and wood haulers to form cooperatives and demand better wages and working conditions, in brave defiance of the large timber companies who threaten to blacklist workers for standing up for their rights.

On another front, the Maine Legislature approved a bill that will ensure employees are given proper notice when a large employer closes, down-sizes or relocates a facility. The bill will extend the state Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act to require Maine employers with more than 100 employees to provide workers and communities with 90 days advance notice prior to closures, relocations or mass layoffs. Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 1400 members worked with the Maine AFL-CIO to organize the advocacy effort in favor of the bill, which now heads to Gov. Janet Mills’ desk for her signature.  

The Maine AFL-CIO is providing support and assistance on a number of other legislative initiatives, including a responsible contracting bill that is a priority bill for state building trades unions (North America's Building Trades Unions [NABTU]); a 911 dispatcher bill that will provide fair retirement benefits for these public employees (Fire Fighters [IAFF]); an effort to improve the timeliness and safety of public bus service (Amalgamated Transit Union [ATU]); a bill establishing wage and employment parity for social workers with the Maine State Employees Association (MSEA); and a number of other collective bargaining and job creating initiatives that working people across Maine have been waiting for.

Emblazoned on the Maine state flag is the term Dirigo, which is Latin for “I direct,” referring to the North Star that also adorns the state banner. In that same spirit, the work that our brothers and sisters in Maine are accomplishing is a guide for how working people can right the ship of state—by organizing to achieve electoral success and doing the hard work to translate those wins into meaningful change. Dirigo, indeed.