More than 150 workers from across Maine gathered at the State House yesterday to lobby legislators on pressing issues, including wages, taxes, education funding and staffing at Riverview Psychiatric Center.
“We think the priorities for the Legislature are obvious. Legislators should be laser focused on improving wages, tackling inequality and providing jobs and economic security for Maine’s hard working families,” said Cynthia Phinney, President of the Maine AFL-CIO and member of IBEW 1837. “It’s getting harder and harder for working people to have a decent life. The costs of food, rent and other basic necessities have gone up for years, but wages haven’t come close to keeping up. The result is an economy that is out of balance with the bulk of the gains going to those at the top.”
Participants in the lobby day were particularly focused on support for increasing the minimum wage and opposition to a competing measure proposed by corporate lobbyists that could throw a wrench in the works of a citizen initiative on November’s ballot to increase the minimum wage to $12 by 2020.
“Like thousands of other homecare workers in Maine, I barely make enough to survive on. After twenty years at my employer, I make $10 per hour with no benefits, no vacation and no sick time. We deserve to make enough to make ends meet. I think we’d all agree: No one who works full time should live in poverty,” said Joe Berry of Belfast at a press conference in the State House Hall of Flags. “I was upset to learn that business groups who always oppose the minimum wage are trying to keep wages lower for homecare workers like me. They are pushing a so called competing measure that’s meant to hurt this minimum wage ballot initiative. This is nonsense. These groups always oppose the minimum wage. I hope legislators will respect the will of the voters and send this referendum out to as is,” Berry said.
Photo: House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe speaks to AFL-CIO lobby day participants