November 16, 2023
Over 1,100 state workers send letters to Governor Mills asking her to close the state employee pay gap
The workers said job vacancies rampant throughout Maine State Government have left their offices and departments understaffed and made it difficult to deliver the quality services that Maine people deserve. They asked Governor Mills to direct her bargaining team in contract negotiations taking place via a mediator to close the state employee pay gap.
A delegation of state employees who work as office assistants, public health educators, comprehensive health planners, interdisciplinary instruction specialists, health program managers, tax examiners, eligibility specialists and emergency medical education training coordinators delivered to Governor Janet Mills today over 1,100 letters from their coworkers asking her to close the state employee pay gap. The letter delivery came as state workers in the Executive Branch of Maine State Government began their fifth month of working without a contract. The Mills administration and the workers are in contract negotiations via a mediator.
“Throughout all departments of Maine State Government, our worksites are understaffed and we are underpaid and overworked,” the state workers wrote to Governor Mills. “All the while, the State has record budget surpluses that have come at the expense of substantially underpaying us for the quality services we consistently provide to all Maine people. Studies in 2009 and again in 2020 show that state workers are underpaid compared to the wages earned by our public and private sector counterparts throughout Maine and New England. The 2020 study showed that on average, state workers are underpaid by 15 percent, and it’s even worse for many classifications – accountants are underpaid 20 to 33%; chemists, 24%; civil engineers, 20 to 25%; mechanics, 31%; and correctional officers, 16%.”
“You have heard that one in six positions in state government is vacant,” said Morgan Dunton, a member the bargaining team for the Maine Service Employees Association, Local 1989 of the Service Employees International Union, and an interdisciplinary instruction specialist for the Maine Department of Education. “That figure is disproportionate with more rank-and-file positions open than management or ‘confidential’ positions where salaries are greater. What does this mean for state services? We, the ordinary state worker, are picking up the work of the vacant positions, working many extra hours even though we don’t qualify for overtime or compensation time, concerned about providing the services we know are essential and critical for our friends, family and communities. We are exhausted, distressed and frustrated. We are asking Governor Mills to protect state services and respect state workers by providing competitive wages and improving the working conditions in our agencies.”
MSEA-SEIU Member Mark Brunton, who also serves on the union’s bargaining team and is president-elect of the union, said, MaineDOT workers, including workers for the Maine State Ferry Service, as well as health and safety inspectors and caseworkers for the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, clerks for the Maine Bureau of Motor and scores of other state workers keep Maine moving and deserve to be paid fairly.
“The Mills administration did not unilaterally create the pay gap, but they have not adequately addressed the pay gap,” Mark Brunton said. “The pay gap exists and it’s growing. We have made reasonable proposals for the improvement of working conditions and for wage increases to close the pay gap to put state workers on par with their peers. Management so far has refused to make significant movement toward agreement at the bargaining table. We are calling on Governor Mills to deliver a serious proposal to increase wages across all wage scales and improve our working conditions, and to complete the classification study and send it to the bargaining table so it can be implemented.”
With one in six positions in state government vacant – that’s over 2,100 vacant state jobs – state workers are asking Governor Mills to close the pay gap and ensure Maine State Government has the appropriate staffing levels to provide quality services to all Maine people. The record state budget surplus is a direct result of underpaying state workers for decades.