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Chellie Pingree Pulls Ahead, First Congress person to Respond

SMP 2008 chellie pingreeImage by samm4mrox via Flickr

This is the third part of a series testing how our elected officials in Maine respond to a question from a Citizen about their federal health care plans.

Recap: Senators Snowe and Collins, Representatives Michaud, and Pingree were asked for copies of their health care policies and what the costs are to the public and to them.
They were also asked how much of those health care benefits will carry into retirement if they become vested.

Remember, this is public information, hard to find but public. You and me and your neighbors pay their salaries. We pay for their benefits, or at least some part of those benefits.

Snowe’s office refused Collins office very politely said, don’t call us, we’ll call you.

Michaud’s office, also politely gave me the brush off.

Congress Woman Pingree’s office sent a response, and then a follow up response when I pointed out that they may have misunderstood my question.

The response is coming later in this post. One out of three elected officials, two answers and one of them advice to “go find it yourself”. The other answer a polite follow up along with an a second follow up, without the information, but seriously leaving the door open to belief that we have at least one Congressional representative that cares about the people of Maine.

In all fairness I will copy the three posts on this topic, forward them to the Congressional offices involved in case I just hit one day of bad customer service in three cases.

Thank you, Congress woman Pingree and thank you Mr. Ritch for the emails.

Dear Tom,

Let me see if I can dig up that information for you.


On 8/25/09 8:47 PM, “NarsBars” <NarsBars@UnionMaine.Org> wrote:

Mr. Ritch,
Thank you but my question was more specific. I would like a copy of the explanation of benefits for the plan Congresswoman Pingree elected and a break down of the costs for that plan allocated to the Congresswoman and the taxpayer. I realize this is public information but my intent is more than health care, it is to measure and demonstrate the help or lack of help each federal office holder in Maine is willing to provide to the public as opposed to a lobbyist.
I am afraid my contributions to Congresswoman Pingree will not get me an invitation to chat on the phone.

I look forward to that information, as Senator Snowe’s office has told me to “go look it up” . I am publishing all of the answers I receive or the lack of them in a continuing series on my blog Http://www.unionmaine.blogspot.com <http://www.unionmaine.blogspot.com/>

Thank you,
Thomas Maher

From: Willy Ritch [mailto:willy.ritch@mail.house.gov]
Sent: Tuesday, August 25, 2009 9:45 AM
To: narsbars@unionmaine.org

Hi Tom,

I understand you had a question about health care benefits that Members of Congress are eligible for. They actually have a choice of a bunch of plans, and I think this LA Times article describes it pretty well:


Let me know if you have any more questions.

All the best,


Willy Ritch
Communications Director
Policy Advisor
Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (ME-1)

P.S. Check out Congresswoman Pingree’s web site.

Here is a summary of Congresswoman Pingree’s stance on health care during 2002.

Allow states to negotiate lower drug prices

Pingree will push to increase the bargaining power of states. Maine has led the way in attempting to lower drug costs for all residents by negotiating with drug companies for lower prices. However, states need more flexibility from the federal government to negotiate lower prices through the federally funded, state-administered Medicaid program. The creative work done in the states should not be tied up at every turn by this powerful industry. States should be allowed more flexibility under the law to seek creative solutions. Any state should be able to negotiate for lower prices from drug companies that provide drugs to the state’s Medicaid program — and pass those discounts on to anyone who lacks prescription drug coverage, not just those on Medicaid.

Source: Campaign website, www.PingreeForSenate.com, “Health Care” Sep 26, 2002

Fight drug companies to make generic drugs available

Pingree will push to make lower priced, quality generic drugs available to consumers. Many people could save enormous amounts of money by buying high-quality, lower priced generic drugs, which often cost 25-60% less than expensive name-brand drugs. However, pharmaceutical companies use their influence to keep quality generic drugs off the market,. National drug policies should lower the barriers erected by the big drug companies and make quality generic drugs available to consumers.

Source: Campaign website, www.PingreeForSenate.com, “Health Care” Sep 26, 2002

Patient’s Rights to protect privacy

Pingree called for passage of a National Patients Bill of Rights that includes additional privacy protections for patients. “Keeping your medical records protected from the marketing departments of the pharmaceutical companies is a basic right that patients deserve,” said Pingree. “A National Patients Bill of Rights that includes privacy protections will ensure that doctors and heath care professionals — not big drug or insurance companies — make important heath care decisions.”

Source: Campaign website, PingreeForSenate.com, “Patients Rights” Aug 28, 2002

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August 29th, 2009 Posted by narsbars | Chellie Pingree, Dear Tom, Health care, Maine, Olympia Snowe, United States Congress, United States House of Representatives | no comments

Health Care Reform. Part two. They don’t get it.

Chellie PingreeImage via Wikipedia

In part one of health care reform, I asked Senators Collins, Snowe, Michaud, and Pingree, for copies of their insurance policies and what the real costs and benefits are. How good are the plans, how much do they cost you and me?

Snowe’s office told me to go find it myself, they refused to talk.
Michaud sent and answer, but while polite it didn’t say anything.

Collins office, roughly translated said we’ll get back to you.

Pingree’s office sent a response tonight. I include the response, which answered none of my questions and my return to her office.

From: Willy Ritch [mailto:willy.ritch@mail.house.gov]
Sent: Tuesday, August 25, 2009 9:45 AM
To: narsbars@unionmaine.org

Hi Tom,

I understand you had a question about health care benefits that Members of Congress are eligible for. They actually have a choice of a bunch of plans, and I think this LA Times article describes it pretty well:


Let me know if you have any more questions.

All the best,


Willy Ritch
Communications Director
Policy Advisor
Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (ME-1)
207-774-5019 (Maine)
202-225-6116 (Washington)

Mr. Ritch,

Thank you but my question was more specific. I would like a copy of the explanation of benefits for the plan Congresswoman Pingree elected and a break down of the costs for that plan allocated to the Congresswoman and the taxpayer. I realize this is public information but my intent is more than health care, it is to measure and demonstrate the help or lack of help each federal office holder in Maine is willing to provide to the public as opposed to a lobbyist.

I am afraid my contributions to Congresswoman Pingree do will not get me an invitation to chat on the phone.

I look forward to that information, as Senator Snowe’s office has told me to “go look it up” . I am publishing all of the answers I receive or the lack of them in a continuing series on my blog Http://www.unionmaine.blogspot.com

Thank you,

Thomas Maher

The following was not in the letter, it is just my feelings.

We elected Democrats and if even they won’t tell us how much we are paying them, what next? This is my money! I want to know what you are being paid!

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August 25th, 2009 Posted by narsbars | Chellie Pingree, Healthcare reform, Olympia Snowe | no comments

Follow the Money

What is Propaganda?

Propaganda avoids facts, Rush Limbaugh claims moral superiority while forgetting his own drug use, willingness to collect unemployment when he was in need, and I think it is now four failed marriages. Propaganda has at its core the intent to encourage hate and prejudice against a targeted group while providing an excuse and a distraction from rational thought.

The user of propaganda tries to get others to accept claims without thought, or to act without weighing hidden motives. The use of inference and anger as a propaganda tool can be heard on any talk radio show, the yelling and the hate for whatever group the host has picked as a target. Talk show hosts and right wing politicians hope to lead the public to accept claims with no logical grounds and with no balancing points of view. “Fair and balanced”. The “talking heads” avoid logical arguments from the audience, so creating an enemy is the most important tool and is the first step.

How to build the lie? First make broad and positive statements, “Republicans believe in smaller government” regardless of the truth. Statements are presented using tag lines and familiar language. By refusing to admit, or even suggest, that there is another side to the question they create the devil, saying “All Unions protect lazy workers”, “Democrats hate free enterprise”, “Union thugs”. These are examples of propaganda. Another example is the repeated claim that Union members are the cause of government waste while ignoring the fact that the public wants the snow plowed, the potholes fixed, and the ambulance to come when needed.

Slogans are a highly powerful form of attack; “drinking Union Cool Aid” suggests that Union members are killing themselves following insane leadership is a common theme.

First they say what everyone knows, times are tough. Then they show sympathy for the audience claiming that they know how hard it is for the public. Then they talk about cutting State Government and then cutting State Employees and their benefits. They never say put a fire a fire fighter, fire a State police officer or stop maintaining the roads. They always say “State Employees” as if it is a group from another world.

A second method of propaganda is appealing to the desires of the audience. Desire is an important factor in belief. The public is frustrated with how government and corporate interests have worked to destroy the middle class. The right needs to find someone to blame for their failed policies and needs a target.

Like advertisers they study public opinion to find out what things people are “for” or “against” in order to decide on labels to use to bring about desired reactions. Using words such as “justice,” “promoting efficient Government” “lower taxes” and “equal opportunity,” will work as positive hooks, and are used in every message. The use of negative words—for example, “Union Bosses” or “Lazy employees” and “government waste” is used to influence the public to justify hate for the intended target.

The desire for lower taxes, a better job, appeals to the target audience. The desire to be respected, capable of taking care of a family, and to be socially acceptable, sells ideas and at the same time the claim that all the problems can be fixed by fixing those who are stealing from the public, state employees is worked in. Anyone who has listened to the radio, or reads knows of dozens of ads now attacking and blaming state employees.

Tax cuts sound great, follow the money, Bush mainly cut taxes for the rich and put billions of your tax dollars into the vaults of the already rich oil companies. Cutting tax rates for billionaires to less than that paid by a janitor can be ignored if you just keep saying tax cuts are good!

The real trick is to “make the idea stick.” That is why key words and slogans, cartoons, are used. “I could have had a V8!” and a hand slap to the forehead, sticks in your mind.

Slogans pack meaning into short sentences. The purpose is to get them noticed. They will burrow into the minds of people. CEOs and political leaders know that slogans are a great viral marketing tool. Advertisers know that reasoned, logical appeals are not always effective. Political debates, have been shortened and emotionalized, “Read my lips, no new taxes!” because much of the audience will not listen to reasoned, point, counter point arguments. The Union message relying on concern for people and on logic and rationality is out of place in this bloody arena.

Political propaganda is full of examples of the use of striking slogans. For example, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall” used by Ronald Reagan. Reagan’s technique painted the U.S. as the lone defender of democracy, while the Soviet Union was ‘the evil empire”.

Slogans have inspired the imaginations of people in the past and continue to the present. We remember “No Taxation without Representation” and it is has become part of American culture and language.

Propaganda uses slogans, and it uses symbols. We have seen the Kool Aid pitcher with “Union Kool Aid” across the front. A symbol avoids logic and discussion and leaves no opportunity for debate. This symbol is used to disguise the true intent, the intent to turn Maine into a “right to work” state.

A symbol is the glue that holds together a group together.

A propagandist knows how to use symbols. Symbols are used to build both positive and negative attitudes.

Cartoons have been used to represent the taxpayer in tattered clothing, the “union boss” and others. The “union boss” is usually pictured as a fat and wearing a diamond pinky ring.

For the big lie to work blame must be placed on individuals or groups that are not responsible, relieving feelings of guilt from responsible parties and distracting attention from the need to fix the problem for which blame is being assigned. By blaming Unions, for failures of industry, the need to worry about products produced by slave or child labor for Wal-Mart can be forgotten.

The history of corporations claiming bankruptcy and canceling benefits for employees and retirees before paying millions in bonuses to the boards can be conveniently ignored.

The fact that many people work for employers that pay little, and respect their employees less can be forgotten by blaming Unions.

The use of “State Employee” as a term of hate is a device to encourage the persecution of scapegoats, while denying the humanity of the group. It is hard to hate when the Union worker taking care of your grandmother is known by her first name, hard to hate when you need the help of a Union police officer or nurse. The creation of a faceless group is done to avoid engaging in reasoned debate and foster hate.

Catchwords and slogans abound in right to work propaganda, contrived for the sake of impressing voters in certain groups. “No Fair Share” uses such important and high-sounding words as “personal merit,” and “right to choose”. “Right to Work,” is a false slogan that does NOT guarantee anyone the “right” to employment and does not protect any worker from being laid off or fired, but it make a great sound bite.

Propaganda can be effective. The support of G.W. Bush and his totally anti-labor appointees by many of our own members is something that I as a Union supporter find impossible to understand. To me it is incredible that a labor hating, former party boy, C student at best, and total failure in all prior business dealings, after having destroyed the Texas budget, should be have ever been turned into an all-powerful and “infallible” leader, “The Decider,” who claims the right to reinterpret our constitution.

How did even some members of labor Unions come to accept this legend surrounding a failed businessman? Perhaps it was because millions of Americans were hoping for “an end of confusion, and no longer felt that their actions in the conduct of their own affairs was effective. The two presidential election won by G. Bush both were under a cloud of suspicion and voters felt they could not make a difference. To many the idea of a leader, a symbol of moral authority, a man to turn things around, allowed the public to forget their role in affairs and to turn the nation over to a ruler who claimed a mandate and all the public had to do was to give him complete trust, blind faith, and the keys to the treasury.

When a group is trying to influence your opinions and actions, ask yourself if their purpose is selfish or unselfish? Will the results of right to work (for less) laws benefit the employees or will it serve to generate political power for the right?

What is likely to be the effect of destroying the current Union? Will the public and the legislature trim government and reward the remaining employees with benefit and wage increases? Is it more likely that projects will be handed out to the private sector to benefit only the owners at the tax payer’s expense?

As an example of facts not revealed, workers in Right to Work states earn on average $6,590 less than workers in free-bargaining states. That’s a 17% pay cut! Women earn 12% less and on average, Right to Work states have a 16% higher poverty rate with job fatality rates 54% higher. The average employee in a free bargaining state is 24.1% more likely to have health insurance.

If personal merit alone guarantees success, why would the best athletes in the world in U.S. baseball, hockey and football join Unions?

It all boils down to some very simple questions: What is the source of the propaganda? Are there any actual facts to support the claims? What really started the movement? Follow the money and ask who will make a buck? Propaganda presents one point of view as if it were the best or only way to look at a situation. Perhaps it is a weakness of Unions that they are willing to listen to many points of view.

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January 6th, 2008 Posted by narsbars | Chellie Pingree, Ethan Strimling, FAIR SHARE, FairShare, MSEA, MSEA ELECTIONS, MSEA-SEIU, Maine Congressional Elections, Maine State Employees, SEIU 1989, UNIONMAINE, anti union talk show | 2 comments

Marijuana, Guns, Social Security, Unions, Questions for Chellie Pingree

First: The distribution notices were gummed up by BLOGGER yesterday, but they seem to have cleared up the problems. You may have gotten a 403 forbidden and contrary to popular belief the conservatives have not found a way to block free speech……..yet.
The same topics keep coming up again and again, and while IRAQ is on everyone’s lips “all politics are local” and voters want to know if their representative will represent them.

1. Social Security Offset State employees that have contributed to the Social Security system are punished by the Social Security offset. As a member of congress, will you work to repeal this unjust law? What will you do?

2. Describe what you would do to improve the Department Of Labor and how you would make it friendlier to labor. Will you support a card check law on the Federal level? Would you support and Enforce prevailing wage across the country?

3. Unions believe in the right of workers to organize and to bargain collectively. Will you work with Unions to extend and return collective bargaining rights to (ALL) Federal workers that have been denied bargaining rights?

4. What are other major issues upon which your campaign is based?

5. What is your position on the war in Iraq and how soon it can be ended?

EDITOR: So far number 6 has been a third rail for Democrats in Congress or for Candidates. Democrats are portrayed as “gun grabbing liberals” that want national registration leading to confiscation. The “assault weapons” ban is seen as the first step in following in the footsteps of Australia and England.

6. On the second amendment, do you believe your views are consistent with the majority of Mainers? Do you believe the second amendment is an individual right or a collective right? Do you see the need for more gun laws or do you believe we should enforce the laws we have?

Do you support the assault weapons ban? Registering all weapons?

7. Would you vote to allow undocumented workers to collect Social Security?

8. What is your position on Bush tax cuts?

9. What role does the Federal Government have in helping to alleviate the health care crisis in this country?

10. What are the most important things Mainers need to know about you that will help us to decide how to vote?

11. What can you do to help Maine if you are elected? Our current (R) representatives have been ineffective in getting LIHEAP money, increasing the road weight limits, or anything else a congressional representative is supposed to do to help their state.

12. Do you have a position on the legalization of marijuana research and the legalization for medical purposes?

13. This next question comes from Helen Hanson, president of the new MSEA-SEIU Union Local 771

What does she think about cutting Medicare benefits that cover the cost of home health care for our elders? This is a program that pays for the health services an elder receives in their home. Like having a nurse go into the home to do a routine check up or having a physical therapist go into the home to do some physical therapy to help keep the person mobile. Is it better to put these people in a nursing home where those costs are high, the care is not that great? Not to mention that the elders would rather stay in their own homes and be comfortable. The work I do is not covered under Medicare. Home Care for Maine does not receive any Medicare money. HCM does not employ nurses that go into the home for these types of services. But a lot of the consumers that Home Care for Maine helps do receive these types of services from other agencies like Health Reach.
Is Ms. Pingree aware of PCAs and PSSs and the type of work we do? I can give her a brief outline. Please let me now if you’d like a brief outline of what a PCA/PSS does and I’ll be glad to send it.

Editor: I am posting the job description that was previously sent in.

A Personal Support Specialist usually works with a consumer, right in the consumer’s home. The work entails personal care like assisting with bathing, dressing, toileting, etc.

It might entail feeding a consumer. It may be helping them take care of a colostomy or help them take care of a catheter.

It also involves doing things like light housekeeping, meal preparation, laundry and taking the consumer to doctors’ appointments, shopping, and on errands.

The best part of it is the interaction with a consumer. For the most part, they enjoy your visits and greatly appreciate the help they are receiving.

This type of work helps consumers remain in their homes, where they are most comfortable.

Most of the consumers at Home Care for Maine are elders, but there are a few who are younger and disabled from disease.

Personally, I enjoy working with elders. They have so much to offer with their life-long experiences. I love hearing their stories of times gone by.

Helen Hanson
President Local 771
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December 19th, 2007 Posted by narsbars | Chellie Pingree, Kennebec Journal Attacks, MSEA, MSEA contract, MSEA-SEIU, MSEASEIU, Maine Congressional Elections, Maine State Employees, SEIU 1989, UNIONMAINE, msea maine, turnmaineblue | no comments

Chellie Pingree wants your questions.

UnionMaine has received a number of questions about the Iraq war, guns, Union Issues, and health care. All the questions have been grouped and the common themes have been put together in a series of questions.

Your questions will be posted here tomorrow and the candidates replies will go up as soon as they arrive.

Republican Candidates have been offered chances to post or to respond to questions. No answers. No replies. Nothing. I may be impatient but we have a bounty of good Democratic candidates for office that are willing to talk to the public in an arena that does not cost $200.00 a plate. Democrats recognize the power of communication and have been willing to reach out to us.

In this case, Thank you Chellie Pingree for being open and accessible to the voters.

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December 18th, 2007 Posted by narsbars | Chellie Pingree, MSEA, MSEA ELECTIONS, MSEA-SEIU, MSEASEIU, Maine Congressional Elections, Tom Allen, UNION CANDIDATES, UNIONMAINE | one comment

Chellie Pingree Candidate for Congress

Chellie Pingree, candidate for Congress in Maine’s First Congressional District sent in her Biography and the candidate, through her campaign office has agreed to answer questions from readers. What do you want to ask? Sign up for this site, and then place your questions in the comments. We will accept questions until until December 21 but let’s give the candidate a break and not look for answers until after Christmas. I really didn’t know enough about the candidate until I read her biography found here. The record is impressive. The real measure of a candidate is not what they promise but who they are and what they have done. I have written to our two Republican Congressional representatives and they have never bothered to answer. The one time I requested help for a State violation of the Federal Fair Labor Standards act, Snowe’s office finally sent me a message saying it was a State matter. What part of “Federal Fair Labor Standards Act” didn’t she want to understand?
Since the last Congressional election cycle the voters know they can regain control of their country. Please read the candidate’s Biography and check out her voting record. Andy Stern should be hoping she wins.
A couple of excerpts.

Chellie Pingree’s Labor Record

1992 – 2000: Knox County Senator and Senate Majority Leader

…State Senator, including four years as Senate Majority Leader….Chellie demonstrated her strength as a lead and fighter for workers’ rights and the labor movement……She also was a strong supporter of expanding workers’ benefits……Chellie voted…to allow workers to sue their employers and to limit mandatory overtime…she also supported legislation to ban professional strikebreakers. ..note how many battles Chellie fought with labor by her side and vice versa. From corporate accountability to fair pricing of prescription drugs, Chellie’s relationship with labor runs deep and has produced some remarkable victories for the people of Maine.

Pingree’s AFL-CIO COPE Rating











Pingree on the Issues 1998-2000

Corporate Accountability: Pingree

sponsored Legislation….so the (State)…could get money back from companies that move jobs out of state. In 1998, Pingree worked with workers and union leaders to pass LD 2243 …….If a company doesn’t comply with the standards laid forth in the Act or fails to create or maintain the jobs as promised in its incentive package, the…provision of the Act kicks in and mandates that the violating company must return all money back to the state. [LD 2243,1999] (Editor: Imagine that, if the company lies, they have to give back the money. I LIKE it!)

Living wage: ….. “We shouldn’t subsidize businesses with economic development incentives and then have to subsidize those workers to get off of food stamps and Medicaid,”

Organizing: Pingree voted to allow legislative workers to join unions. (LD 2096, 4/7/98)

Family and Medical Leave: Pingree voted to expand family and medical leave. (LD 406, 5/6/93)

Permanent Replacement Workers: Pingree voted to prohibit hiring permanent replacement workers. (LD 66, 4/29/97)

Strikebreakers: Pingree voted to prohibit professional strikebreakers. (LD 113, 5/5/97)

Pingree as a Leader for Working Families

Chellie Pin gree fought to keep jobs in Maine. According to the Bangor Daily News, “The workers at Van Baalen [a subsidiary of Nautica] in Rockland will never forget the state senator from North Haven.” ……when the plant announced it would close…….Pingree…worked with company officials to cancel the move..(and)..assisted…with a 330,000-square-foot expansion of the facility that boosted the work force to more than 300 employees.

Nautica Chairman Announcement Business Would Remain in Maine. A few months later, “Our business will remain in Maine,” Nautica Chairman Harvey Sanders said. Van Baalen, a subsidiary of Nautica, is a clothing firm with 135 -1 50 employees and a $3 million payroll, which has been in Rockland since 1939. Because of unprecedented business expansion, the company has outgrown its 200,000 -square-foot building in the city industrial park.

…..Althea Leach of Union, a Van Baalen employee. “She not only talked the talk. She walked the walk,’ Leach said.” [Bangor Daily News, 6/07/0 1]

Pingree on the Issues 2002-2007

Chellie ran a…campaign against….Susan Collins in……2002. (With)….the support and endorsement of virtually all labor unions, and thousands of supporters across the state of Maine, her campaign was considered strong even if it was not a good year from Democrats, in Maine or across the country.

In 2003,Chellie was….national president of the government watchdog organization Common Cause…..she fought for fair elections and “counting every vote,”……Under Pingree’s watch, Common Cause…helped to expose the corrupt ethics and practices of leaders such as Tom Delay and Duke Cunningham.

Pingree continued to be an outspoken and forceful advocate for workers…. At Common Cause she helped…..(fight) the Bush administration from undermining workers rights…..by developing a Free Trade Area of the Americas.

Pingree also led efforts in Washington to fight against no-bid contracts given to companies like Haliburton with little or no oversite and cost controls.

Chellie Pingree on current legislation

If Chellie Pingree were in Congress today, she would be an ally to working people: Pingree supports H.R. 800, The Employee Free Choice Act

Pingree supports H.R. 676, The United States National Health Insurance Act

Pingree would not support additional “free trade” agreements; would push for the reexamination of existing trade agreements,…….

Appointments, Awards and Union Membership

Pingree is a proud member of the National Writers’ Union/UAW Local 1981.

Pingree serves on the board of the national organization, Wal-Mart Watch, and previously served on the board of Families USA, which advocates for universal health care.

Editor: As long as this list of accomplishments is, this is only a heavily edited distillation of the record of Chellie Pingree. Read her record, ask yourself “What would Dick Cheney do?” and you will know we should find out all we can about Chellie Pingree.

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December 15th, 2007 Posted by narsbars | Chellie Pingree, MSEA, MSEA-SEIU, Maine State Employees, Olympia Snowe, SEIU 1989, Susan Collins, TECHNORATI, UNION CANDIDATES, UNIONMAINE, msea maine, turnmaineblue | 3 comments