Bargaining News


March 14, 2024

Support-services workers at Maine Community College System deliver petition demanding fair wages, restoration of merit-pay increases frozen since the recession of 2009

Support-services workers for the Maine Community College System march from Capitol Park to MCCS President David Daigler’s office in Augusta on March 14 to deliver their petition demanding the system’s board of trustees, campus presidents and leadership compensate them fairly as a way to address the understaffing throughout the college system.

A delegation of support-services workers at the Maine Community College System (MCCS) today delivered to the office of MCCS President David Daigler a petition demanding its board of trustees, campus presidents and leadership compensate them fairly as a way to address the understaffing throughout the college system. The petition delivery comes as support and supervisory workers for the system are in their ninth month of working under expired contracts.

“MCCS is actively losing workers because it is not competitive with the private sector. Wages at MCCS are significantly lower than other similar positions throughout the state,” states the petition signed by nearly 100 of the approximately 165 support-services workers throughout the college system. In addition to asking for significant cost of living adjustments and retroactive pay, the workers are calling on the MCCS to unfreeze, for two years, merit-pay increases that typically provided them with annual 3% pay raises during their first eight years of service. MCCS froze merit pay for support and supervisory workers in 2009 during the Great Recession and has refused to unfreeze it ever since, even though the college system and the economy have long since recovered from the recession.

“I’ve worked at Southern Maine Community College in Brunswick for the past seven years – two as a contractor and five as a facilities maintenance specialist,” said Jay Bickford of Bowdoin, who serves on his union negotiating team for the Support Services bargaining unit. “After five years with the college, I make the same amount as a maintenance technician starting at McDonald’s around the corner. Our current responsibilities and student count compared with two years ago is night and day. There are 1,200 more students enrolled at SMCC from fall 2022 to fall 2023, with over 577 workforce students having come through the Brunswick campus since July 2023. My schedule and expected work output is unsustainable.”

Eric Clark of Hermon works as an information technology specialist level 2 at Eastern Maine Community College in Bangor and also serves on his union negotiating team for the Support Services bargaining unit. In his job helping students access online educational tools, he sees the impact of unfilled positions on student services and on the college’s buildings.

“We do not have enough help-desk personnel in IT. We do not have a manager for the northern or central help-desk at this time,” Clark said. “We’re about to lose our master electrician and they are not looking at being able to fill that position because of the low pay. Our master electrician is done on the 22nd of this month. That is a problem. Our maintenance department has not had an HVAC (heating, ventilation and air-conditioning) person for over three years; we can’t hire one. They’re not hiring at a high enough pay scale.”

Because of the understaffing, “Everything is slower. Services do not get rendered as promptly as good customer service would dictate,” Clark added. “For HVAC, people are going to be more uncomfortable, either too cold or too warm, for longer periods of time, because we have to contract those services out; we’re spending more money on contracting than we would filling the position. It doesn’t have to be this way. The college system needs to start paying workers fairly. We deserve it – and the students deserve campuses that are fully staffed.”

According to the workers’ petition, “The years of frozen merit-pay increases have resulted in the degradation of the quality of work we can perform. By hiring staff at the same or higher wages than existing or longstanding staff, the MCCS is telling us that our loyalty is not valued, and that the knowledge and experience gained over the years is not valued by the colleges that we serve. Running the Free College Program off the backs of underpaid workers is a sinking ship. The quality of education for students suffers when workers are not paid a living wage that recognizes and rewards longevity and dedication to the Maine Community College System.”

Eric Clark, the information technology specialist level 2 at EMCC, said he started working for the college system in 2003. Six years into his service, in 2009 during the Great Recession, the college system froze annual merit-pay increases.

“It became very evident that the job I have at EMCC was not going to be enough to pay the bills, so I had to reach out. I found that working at Lowe’s between eight to 12 hours a week, in addition to my full-time job, is the only way to survive,” Clark said. “You sacrifice time with the family when you do that – things that folks with just one job might take for granted. It’s the everyday things you can’t do: fixing up the house, having time to play with the kids more often, socializing. There is no socializing when you work two jobs; socializing is gone.”

Eric added that he’s part of the sandwich generation – workers who are not only taking care of their children but a parent as well. The father of twins ages 15, he provides care for his mother; they live in the same house.

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