UnionMaine

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If the MSEA-SEIU was in Canada



If the MSEA-SEIU was a Canadian Union we Couldn’t be blackmailed. Make no mistake about it, we are blackmailed every time we negotiate a contract.

Unions across the United States have made mistakes while bargaining contracts. Short term decisions, a raise this year, $50.00 for tools, or a night shift premium have contributed to our present crisis.


In the short term each goal was a good idea and helped some or all employees. The disaster of working only for short term goals was predicted in the 1940’s by Walter P. Reuther, one of America‚Äôs great labor leaders, president the United Automobile Workers union (UAW) between 1946 and 1970. Reuther’s early call for universal health was his one failure. Reuther built the UAW and foresaw the cost health care for Union members would make those benefits a target for cuts and attacks on Union members in the future. He built the UAW but sadly failed to get other Unions on board. In the early years the Unions saw health care as a Union benefit, something to be used as a recruiting tool to gain members.


Short term thinking was the norm up until the 1990’s when the full implications of the anti-Union Reagan and Bush administrations started to have the effect the right was looking for: Unions became weaker, but while becoming weaker they were forced to look to the long term and think about health care for all, retirement for all because they were becoming the targets that Reuther had prophesied.


In Maine Union negotiations for short term goals alone are not responsible for putting us where the legislature is able use the threat of cutting our health care as a club to force contract concessions rather than negotiate fairly.


Unions are not to blame for a collapsing stock market, the housing market and the loss of over $12 trillion dollars in home equity and investments. This depression has killed consumer spending.


UAW workers don’t earn $72.00 an hour, they earn nearly the same and in some cases less than non-union plants.

State employees don’t get cost of living raises, but all these lies make reaching a fair contract more challenging.


Auto industry management, Bush deregulation, and Wall Street greed have put our Union and the State of Maine in the same place. A place where we can fight with each other or work together for the common good.


Where once a good job with benefits allowing a worker to provide for a family was seen as an honest goal, now the right paints anyone working for more than minimum wage as greedy.


At the same time an auto worker or a State employee is painted as greedy the right wingnuts have been screaming for tax cuts for the rich, bankruptcy for the airlines to break Union contracts, and they tried to get their hands on Social Security.


The Unions are not to blame for a dysfunctional, profit driven health care system in the U.S. If we operated under and paid the same as the Canadian system, Maine could be many millions of dollars if not hundreds of millions of dollars ahead of where it is now.


The companies in Canada still pay some dollars towards employee benefits but the the savings for health care could be as much as 50%, putting them in line with costs in Canada.


No government would ever use all of the savings wisely, but some of the savings would still go to workers as higher wages and to taxpayers as lower taxes.


Maine is also picking up part of the tab for many spouses and dependent children. The taxpayer would not have to carry health care costs in a Canadian model health care system.


Taxpayers would have the same health care as State employees and we would no longer be targets for having what everyone deserves.


Even with these additional savings Maine would still be facing serious problems. The Politicians have made a string of bad choices by putting off road repairs, stealing from pension funds, and betting the future on ever rising home prices that would bring in ever higher property taxes.

This is one of the most important contracts we have ever negotiated. It will be a tragedy if the example of good jobs with good benefits is made to to disappear through a depression caused by greed and crooked financial dealings of Wall Street, Reagan, Bush senior and George Bush.


For the most part the legislature is not bad, they don’t hate Unions or State employees, but the situation is made worse by virtue of the fact that most legislators are looking for the easy way out. State employees paychecks are the easy way out.


The public thinks we get cost of living raises every year and raises every year. In one online forum they scream that we should only get a raise equal to the Consumer Price index. I wish! If we had gotten that size raise for the last six years we would have averaged 4% per year, not the 2% per year we actually received.


The public isn’t told that State employees have in effect been taking pay cuts every year for over a decade earning less than inflation and still taking cuts in benefits.


Maine is partially in this disaster due to legislators who are wealthy, and unable to understand where their spending habits have put the State, the taxpayers, and the employees who serve them.


While the appropriations committee was cutting funds for foster children last year one legislator stood in a public hearing and asked me if no one had ever told me that State promises are no good. He was looking for a laugh and thought he was funny. So many of them do not understand what it is to work for a living.

We worry about possible demands that Union members give up previously negotiated wages and benefits while some legislators refuse to listen to ideas that could save the taxpayers millions. The Union and the legislature must start adopting the long view.


They don’t feel the damage they are doing because Maine has a part time legislature and for the most part only those who can afford a legislators chump change salary can serve. They just don’t understand.


As Union members look at their paychecks and wonder if they will be smaller next year, if they will have jobs next year, the legislature holds the club of health care cuts and lay offs over our heads.


Look again at that paycheck, the amount deducted for health care or paid by the State, with this money, the State has helped to pay the CEO of Anthem a multi-million dollar salary performing a job a small group of State employees could be hired to perform. They spend more millions renting buildings that landlords refuse to maintain while State owned property rots for lack of maintenance. Contracts are outsourced and the costs are never checked after the first year. They don’t understand.


The Mainers that are State employees know where the waste is, where the money is going. We want to work with the State to save tax dollars. We see the waste, we love Maine, and we pay taxes too. A partnership could save millions.


Be ready to call your legislator this coming year and tell them you understand, you vote, your family votes, you pay taxes too, and if the citizens of Maine can not get a driver license, the roads go unplowed, the public will remember.


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December 17th, 2008 Posted by narsbars | 2009 contract, Executive Branch Bargaining, MSEA, MSEA contract, MSEA-SEIU, MSEASEIU, Maine State Employees, SEIU 1989, Thomas Maher, UNIONMAINE, msea maine, outsourcing, state employee lay offs | one comment

1 Comment

  1. There appearsto be a flaw in your logic in making comparison to the Canadian Health Care system. You suggest that your members would have access to health care while the State could provide tax cuts.

    The Canadian Health Care system is primarily funded through Canadian Income Taxes. So while the nominal income tax rate in the US is 28% the nominal income tax rate in Canada is 52%. So in following your logic your members would have to pay double in income taxes to gain accees to Canadian style health care. I do not think you can sell that.

    The US Health care system can be “fixed” by adopting a single payer system. There are too many companies paying for parts of the health care system so that no one could resonably see the increases that comes with so many handling so much. In 2008 the cost of Health Care in the US, as a percebtage of GDP will rise to 16%. In perspective, that is equivalent to 8 versions of the Big 3 Auto companies (They collectively contribute 2% to GDP).

    I just suggest that more home work needs to be done.

    Comment by Anonymous | December 18, 2008

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