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Employee Health care fund, a Piggy Bank for Politicians?

State Employees are justifiably worried about the attacks on health care, wages and benefits. Large employers in Maine are funding attacks on State employees because they fear the example that State employees set. Fair pay, benefits, collective bargaining are all frightening terms to the owner that only want to see themselves as “the boss”. They are threatened by the example of an employee employer partnership that is effective.

Many of the attacks focus on health care benefits, but just maybe the governor has seen that the best way to help the rest of Maine is to follow the success of the Union & State run health care. The State employee health commission has been tasked with the job of running the health care system on a budget fixed by the legislature and the scary thing about it to corporate types is that it works and it has even been able to build up a “rainy day fund”. Make no mistake, the success of the fund makes it the target for politicians. They want to grab that fund, and then they will claim that the lack of a fund is the reason they should cut our benefits. After all, there must be something wrong with a well run fund that can build a surplus!

There is some hope, in his Jan. 9 speech Gov. Baldacci proposed a partnership between the Maine State Employees Health Commission, the University of Maine system and the Maine Education Association to “put their enormous buying power to work to lower prescription drug costs” for state residents………… The governor said that in 2008 he will support legislative efforts to provide meaningful market reform that will make coverage more affordable for individuals. Is it time to let Mainers buy insurance from any willing and financially stable provider? The insurance commission will still have the final control, the ability to deny licensing to an out of State insurance company.

What could be more obvious? The Unions have kept health care cost increases to a small percentage of the increases faced by much of America and they have done it using good money management tools. Maybe it is time for the government to look at success and try to copy it, not destroy it.

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January 15th, 2008 Posted by narsbars | Greedy pig, Kennebec Journal Attacks, MSEA-SEIU, MSEASEIU, SEIU, SEIU 1989, STATE EMPLOYEES, UNIONMAINE, msea maine | one comment

Bangor Daily attacks working families in Maine. One State Worker Fights Back With the Truth

There is a lot going on this week. I planned to put up Chellie Pingree’s responses to reader questions, but it would be unfair with all the attention on the National Elections. We need to be able to focus on our own elections. This weekend I will be posting Chellie’s answers with some editorial comments.

More Attacks on State Workers.
Radio ads, articles in the KJ, now the Bangor Daily News.
I want to thank on of my co workers for spotting the BDN story and sending her answer to the BDN, every one of her representatives and to UnionMaine. I hope the MSEA web site gets this information out to the membership also. Please keep reading for one of the best letters I have ever read from one of our members. If this upsets you, go to the right hand column, scroll down and find your legislator(s). Email them and ask if they will be looking for your votes.

Cost of state benefits

EDITOR: Italics and bold added. If this article upsets you with its portrayal of State Workers as lazy, greedy, targets click the BDN Staff link and email them to let them know that you are Mainers and you expected to be able to trust your government.

BDN Staff

As state government wrestles over the next 18 months with a revenue shortfall projected at $95 million, it’s time to consider the cost of state employee benefits.

As is the case in the private sector, the cost of providing health insurance benefits to state employees has grown in recent years. Yet state employees have not been asked to shoulder the burden of those increasing costs. Shifting a portion of the increases to employees, in the form of higher premiums and co-payments, could yield savings that ultimately allow the state to preserve jobs.

Currently, the state pays the entire cost of health, dental and life insurance premiums for its employees. Few would suggest that state government move away from providing health insurance to employees and their dependents. Collectively, Maine benefits with more of its residents having access to affordable health insurance, and therefore access to timely and preventive health care.

……….state workers paying higher co-payments for physician visits and prescriptions, and meeting higher deductibles, seems fair. ……………..

Compensation packages for 12,236 of the 13,428 state employees come through collective bargaining agreements. Negotiating those contracts with a goal of reducing a benefit……….can be done — .

……..consider the city of Bangor’s health insurance benefits. ……the least expensive health insurance plan offered to single employees includes a $1,000 deductible, and prescription co-payment of $10, $25 or $40. ………….with the city picking up……80 percent, of the cost of the insurance.

Yet another……savings for the state could come in indexing health insurance premiums based on salary. Why should someone making $70,000 a year pay the same amount as someone making $35,000?

…….generous benefit packages, …….are out of balance with the private sector and costing taxpayers.

Here is one of the an eloquent and honest answer to these attacks. Only answers like these, and emails to the legislature will preserves the benefits you have already paid for.

Dear BDN:

Once again, as in years past, pot-shots are being taken at state employees as a way to balance the state budget. According to one such ad on the radio daily, it praises the governor for his work in cutting $38,000, 000 without raising taxes, while bemoaning the fact that unless he gets rid of ‘too many state employees and their benefits, which are better than most’, he probably be forced to raise taxes on everyone in the state.

Well, let me say this about that. Number one, state employees are taxpayers as well, so if taxes must be raised, we will be paying the increases as well. Number two, when this ad talks about our healthcare benefits being ‘better than most’ – please be aware that these have been paid for by our years of service to this state, via contract negotiations, etc. Many of us decided to work for the state primarily because we looked down the road and anticipated that healthcare would be vital to our survival.

As it is, when I inquired about retirement, I was told by Social Security that at age 65, if I retired, I would be required to have Medicare as my primary coverage and that my state coverage would act as a back-up (and to me that meant my prescription coverage would be intact). I would have to pay the Medicare Part A, which currently stands at $96.40 a month and has a $135.00 deductible, plus paying 20% of most of the other ‘services’ covered. This is where I was ‘assuming’ my state healthcare coverage would pick up the slack. Now, I’m under the impression that anyone over 65 and on Medicare will be dropped from company/state based policies and that would mean taking out supplemental insurance to pay prescription costs.

Another article that has appeared regarding getting rid of state workers, make me wonder, if they can violate Union contracts and get rid of us, does that mean that we can strike to attempt to retain our benefits and jobs? Currently, that is part of the Union agreement with the state in that we are not permitted to strike, no matter what type of contract is negotiated, whether shut-down days, furlough days, no increases in cost-of-living, etc., are handed down..

I would suggest that if it is so necessary to reduce the workforce, some decent retirement incentives would certainly get rid of a lot of employees with 20+ years service. Some of these individuals have the years of service in, but are younger than the 59 years or 62 years of age wherein they could retire without a 6% penalty per year because they are younger than 59 or 62 (this age being dependent upon when an employee was hired into state service).


Nancy W. Worcester

Thank you Nancy Worcester

You will notice that the writer ignores the fact that many employees did work for years to pay for their benefits. Paid in advance. They want to forget all the years of salaries lower than the private sector that paid for those benefits. I want the writer to tell me he supports cutting the benefits for State troopers and to tell them to retire at 62 instead of 55. I want the writer to cancel the warranty on his car because Chevy is having it tough. It doesn’t matter that he paid for the warranty, paid for the car, Chevy is having it tough. Go give back the warranty.

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January 8th, 2008 Posted by narsbars | Kennebec Journal Attacks, MSEA-SEIU, MSEASEIU, SEIU 1989, STATE EMPLOYEES, msea maine | 2 comments

I.F.&W Proposals for 2009 Contract

The important thing is to get the proposals in. We all know that not every proposal can make it to the table or we would have two or thee form each of ten thousand employees.

These came in From I.F.&W. From Mike. I am not using Mike’s last name because I forgot to get his permission to put it up. Mike if it is O.K. to use your name, send me an email. Your co workers should know you are working for them.

Hi Tom
count me in I will send you a couple IF&W Hatchery Protech proposals.
(1) All FishCulture Assistant Supervisors be placed in the Supervisory Unit like the Game Keeper Assistant Supervisor More or less same title.
(2) More pay!!!!!!!!!
(3) More help at the hatcheries since we have increased our workload by 25% over the last 10 years and lost a couple positions.
(4) Weekend stipends for Hatchery staff.
These are a few I can think of for at least the hatchery employees and all state workers.
If I think of anymore or hear of any from my fellow employees I will send them on to you.

Thanks Mike. We can’t study the proposals unless we have them.

E.T.I. 2009

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January 3rd, 2008 Posted by narsbars | ATTACK ON UNIONS, Kennebec Journal Attacks, MSEA, MSEA Dues, MSEA ELECTIONS, MSEA contract, MSEA-SEIU, MSEASEIU, Maine State Employees, SEIU 1989, UNIONMAINE, federal mileage rate, msea maine | no 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

Evasion and Hypocrisy from the K J


I received a hypocritical answer to my email to the K J, saying that my reply could not be printed.

Here is their reply,

Dear Mr. (Here they spell my name wrong) proving they did not read the letter.

Thank you for your letter to the editor. Unfortunately we can’t publish it
for two reasons. One is that you are out of our circulation area and the
second is it appears that the letter, which arrived along with many others
with the same wording and the same message, is the product of an organized


Naomi Schalit, Opinion Page Editor
Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel
Central Maine Newspapers
274 Western Avenue
Augusta, Maine 04330
Direct line: 207-621-5649
EMAIL: nschalit@centralmaine.com

Click on Naomi’s email address to tell her how you feel about the K J refusing to print “the rest of the story”.

In my reply I asked if they were only suggesting that State Employees in their coverage area take a cut in health.
Obviously Naomi did not read my letter if she said that it was just like all the others.

The K J is just trying to sell papers by practicing hate speech and creating a class that it is OK to hate.

There is good news the K J won’t print, click here.

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November 29th, 2007 Posted by narsbars | Kennebec Journal Attacks, MSEA-SEIU, MSEASEIU, Maine State Employees, UNIONMAINE | no comments

Kennebec Yellow Journalism

As reported on the MSEA-SEIU web site the attacks have begun again. Cut State employees jobs. Cut their health care. When you talk with anyone that believes this ask them if they would give their car or truck back to Chevy of Ford because the car companies are having a tough time.If you don’t think that is a fair comparison remember they already paid for the car it belongs to them. We have paid in advance for our benefits. We have made less real money for years by taking increases less than the rate of inflation. The State has always justified this by telling us we were paying for our health care! We paid and the promises should be good.
We need to start the next contract bargaining NOW or by the time we get to the table there will be no choices the legislature will have taken the money and sold the program to the public.
I wrote my letter to the Editor of the K.J. This is hate speech, rhetoric to give an excuse to hate. The right wing needs to blame anyone but the Republicans and their failed policies that have been in control in Washington for the problems of the economy. Maybe failed is the wrong term if you are among the richest 1% in the US the past eight years have been an endless Christmas of tax breaks, anti labor law and war profiteering.

Letter to the Editor.
Cut State employee health care. Steal what has already been paid for. State employees have been taking pay cuts for ten years, any increases have been smaller than the rate of inflation. We have paid in advance for our health care. Our terms of employment were based on wages and promises. Your proposal would make the word of the State worthless.
I remember Mainers as keeping their word.
State Employees with health care set an example that shames the right wing and embarrasses well funded corporations. State Employees work in their off time and with their Union dues to help find ways for other Mainers to achieve good jobs, and security.
Proposing a race to the bottom is not the way to save money it is only a way to save face for the selfish on the right.
This is the devil making rhetoric that is always used by the top to enrage the mob and divert attention. Blame the Union, blame the Jews, blame the immigrants. Your reason for this article is transparent. More sales, more money for the owners of your paper. Any student of history can see the pattern you are following to foster hate and create a class of those it is OK to hate.

Click Here to send a letter to the editor of the KJ.

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November 28th, 2007 Posted by narsbars | Kennebec Journal Attacks, MSEA, MSEA contract, TECHNORATI, The Cliff, UNIONMAINE | no comments