This week, the Maine AFL-CIO, the state’s largest federation of more than 160 unions representing 40,000 workers, endorsed Jared Golden for Congress in the Democratic Primary in Maine’s second Congressional District. The winner of the June 12th primary will face Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a darling of Wall Street, who has voted to jeopardize social security and Medicare by giving massive tax cuts to billionaires and corporations and voted to jack up health care costs and strip coverage from nearly 117,000 Mainers.
Workers in the second district are feeling the strain and pain of the economic squeeze– runaway inequality, stagnant wages, rising costs, decreased worker bargaining power, deindustrialization, and a restructuring economy. Voters are frustrated and are starving for answers to the challenges in their lives. People are quite literally experimenting right now to find those answers.
On the hand you have an incredible surge in teacher strikes, workers organizing into unions, a massive uptick in people getting involved in political activity and protest, a seismic shift in the progressive policy landscape of what’s possible, and the most coherent challenge to the politics of austerity that we’ve seen in many decades.
On the other hand, the majority of voters in the second district supported Donald Trump in the presidential election. Swing elections are the new norm. The hearts and minds of working people are up for grabs.
For the Maine AFL-CIO, the answer to the challenge of this moment is twofold: 1) we must very methodically work to build a progressive, working class movement that pushes out a bold vision for the world we want, that helps people connect the dots and wins over hearts and minds, and that involves thousands of workers struggling together; and 2) we must be strategic and bold in our politics to push forward leaders who will help build this movement, who will champion ideas on scale with the challenges we face and who will tell a powerful story of who we are, what we value, and where we go together.
We endorsed Jared Golden because he is a partner in this project, because he has a rock-solid record of standing for workers, unions, healthcare, veterans, and a better democracy and because he is the strongest candidate to take on Rep. Poliquin in the November general election.
For Julie Eaton, a lobster fisherman from Deer Isle, health care is the issue driving her vote this election. Julie has worked as a lobster fisherman for 32 years and hauls 225 traps a day. She’s one of 106,000 Mainers without health insurance.
“I don’t have health insurance. I can’t afford it. After I pay for my stern man, fuel, bait, my boat and the like, there just isn’t the money left for health insurance,” she said. “It worries me. Fishing is dangerous work. It would be nice to not have to worry about losing everything we have worked for our entire lives if we get sick,” she said.
“I support Jared Golden because he believes health care is a right,” Julie add, “he supports Medicare for All and he knows that we should all have the freedom and peace of mind of universal health coverage.”
For Pat Carleton, a union pipefitter at the Sappi mill who lives in Chesterville, Rep. Poliquin’s vote to support Trump’s massive tax giveaways to the wealthiest one percent was a clear indication of where he stands. “Rep. Poliquin has simply forgotten the people of this district. The second CD is not made up of billionaires. It is made up of modest, hard-working people. We are so tired of the false promises of trickle down economics. For anyone still buying the trickle down line,” he joked, “I have some ocean front property to sell you in Kansas.”
Pat supports Golden because of his record fighting for economic justice. “Working people like me are sick of politicians in Washington rigging the rules to benefit the rich while it gets harder and harder for us here in rural Maine,” he said. “I support Jared because he has been right there with us fighting to raise wages, to stop wage theft, and to oppose the unfair trade deals that that have cost us thousands of jobs.”
Golden sponsored a bill that became law in 2017 to crack down on wage theft and to strengthen protections and remedies for Maine workers.
Ron Green, a retired Bangor firefighter, knows that Jared has been a strong supporter of raising wages. “It’s ridiculous. Too many Maine workers are working hard but still earning low wages. We have some firefighters and EMTs starting in our region who are earning $10.40 or $11 per hour,” he said. “It shouldn’t be this way. All workers deserve a living wage.”
The voter-approved minimum wage referendum has been instrumental in driving up wages for starting firefighters and EMTs in the second district as well as 130,000 workers statewide. As a state representative, Golden voted against every Republican effort to roll back the voter-approved minimum wage and has worked to hold the full Democratic caucus against rollbacks. He was also the only member of Democratic House leadership to vote against repealing the inclusion of tipped workers in the minimum wage increase.
Ron has seen Golden’s steadfast support and leadership for fire fighters when he sponsored the bill that became law to help firefighters, EMTs, and police officers suffering from job related post-traumatic stress injuries access needed health care treatment. First responders told harrowing stories at the bill’s public hearing of the human impacts of seeing accidents and death first hand on the job.
Maine AFL-CIO President Cynthia Phinney, a former shoe worker and Central Maine Power meter reader, agrees that Golden is the right person for the job. “Working people like us need leaders to stand up for the things that matter,” Phinney said, “raising wages, healthcare, and tax fairness. Jared Golden has been solid in his support for workers and a fair economy. That’s why we are going to work hard to send Jared to Congress.”
Jared Golden has a lifetime 96 percent Maine AFL-CIO labor voting record in the State Legislature. He is running in the June 12th Democratic Primary against Lucas St. Clair and Craig Olson.
In addition to the Maine AFL-CIO’s endorsement, Jared Golden has also been endorsed by the Professional Firefighters of Maine, the United Steelworkers, Maine State Council of Machinists, Machinists Local S7 and IBEW 2327.
Jared Golden (center) is with Maine AFL-CIO President Cynthia Phinney and union member Pat Carleton. (Photo courtesy of AFL-CIO)