July 19, 2023
Legislators heard us; keep pressure on management
MSEA-SEIU President Dean Staffieri, at left, asked his State Senator, Jim Libby, to support the pay-gap bill LD 1854, which passed in the Maine Legislature.
By Dean Staffieri
President, MSEA-SEIU Local 1989
The 131st Maine Legislature’s passage of the pay-gap bill, LD 1854, has the potential to bring much-needed accountability to the State’s compensation and classification process for workers in the Executive Branch of Maine State Government. It’s essential that we hold both the Legislature and management accountable for implementation.
There’s more work to be done at the bargaining table to close the pay gap. Our Executive Branch Negotiations Team is at the bargaining table negotiating successor contracts to the ones that expired June 30 in our four Executive Branch bargaining Units: Administrative Services; Operations, Maintenance and Support Services; Professional-Technical Services; and Supervisory Services. Our Negotiations Team is determined to secure the pay raises needed right now to help close the pay gap. We must keep the pressure on management for contractual pay raises. It’s past time that state workers are paid comparably to our public and private sector counterparts in Maine and throughout New England.
The consequences of the State’s low pay for state workers have been profound. With nearly one in six positions in state government vacant due to the pay gap, workloads have become impossible and many state workers are really struggling to make ends meet. In my testimony on May 12 to the Legislature in support of closing the pay gap, I shared several stories of several state workers in their own words:
“I need to work a second job nights to support my family. This results in me working 70+ hour workweeks, and less time with my family. If the pay gap were closed and a more livable wage offered to employees, I wouldn’t need to have a second job and could have less stress, more work life balance and, most important, time with my kids.”
— A worker for Maine DHHS
“I have been at MaineDOT for more than 20 years. Living off state pay is challenging when the cost of living has gone up a lot. If MaineDOT wants to hire more people instead of losing them, this needs to be fixed. We are supposed to be representing the state and the pay is not.”
— A worker for MaineDOT
“While the work of public service is rewarding, the disparity in pay also makes it also feel like a sacrifice. I have advanced degrees which are more highly compensated outside of state service. With inflation and rising costs, I feel I have to make a choice between public service or supporting my family. I feel I have no choice but to explore a more sustainable career paths for my family.”
— A worker in the Maine Bureau of Rehabilitation Services within the Maine Department of Labor
“The pay gap is the reason I’m looking to leave state employment. As a single parent, I can’t afford to pay for the necessities and have had to get state aid for food. My kids as part-time workers are making $15-plus and hour and have been offered $18 to go to full time at McDonald’s. Yet many in my group don’t make that. How is this okay with our Legislature?”
— A worker for the General Government Service Center within the Maine Department of Administrative and Financial Services
As a member of the Executive Branch Negotiations Team, I want all of you to know that our Negotiations Team has heard your stories loud and clear. We are determined to make the progress on closing the pay gap and we won’t stop bargaining until we do. Be sure to show your support for our Negotiations Team; we are fighting for all of you and need your encouragement. Executive Branch workers can stay informed through our bargaining updates and join in the bargaining sessions on the topics that matter most to them. Together, let’s keep making our voice heard in our worksites, our communities and at the bargaining table: Close the pay gap!
Take action to raise up our demand to close the pay gap! Take a photo/selfie of you and/or your coworkers holding a sign to close the pay gap, and help spread the message! Share your photos by emailing: MSEASelfieAction@mseaseiu.org