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Business and Economy

State Workers Rally In Augusta For Higher Wages

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MSEA-SEIU Local 1989
State workers rally for higher wages at the Maine State House on Sunday, June 27.

State employees are demanding that the administration of Gov. Janet Mills raise the minimum state government wage to $15 dollars an hour.

They say there's a well-documented pay gap between what they earn in Maine and what their counterparts earn in other parts of New England.

Dean Staffieri has been employed with the state for 30 years and is also the president of the MSEA-SEIU Local 1989. He says low wages contribute to frequent staff turnover in state government.

"What used to be the place where you'd want to spend your 30, 35, or 40 years has changed into a place where people sort of hop in and hop out," he says.

Workers and their families gathered at the State House yesterday to bring attention to to the pay issue. They say it's a matter of fairness and a simple need to keep up with the cost-of-living increases that occurred during the pandemic.

In the year prior to the November, 2020 study, the Mills Administration increased pay for all State workers by 3 percent. All unionized workers received an additional increase of an average of 4 percent in 2021 according to Kelsey Goldsmith, the director of communications for the Department of Administration and Financial Services.

Goldsmith also says the Mills Administration removed the lowest salary tier for State workers as part of the 2021 pay increase in a move to ensure future hires would enter state employment at a higher rate.

Staffieri says the current requested increase in wages would better support public employees who endure stress on their jobs — such as workers in child and adult protective services.

“It's not unusual that people get trained and then off they go into the private sector because there's such a substantial difference in money," he says.

During current contract negotiations, the Mills Administration has offered union workers a wage increase, but Staffieri says it did not meet their request.

Contract negotiations are continuing.