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Maine Unions Tout 'Pivotal Role' In Labor Day Events

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Nora Flaherty
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Maine Public

Members and supporters of Maine’s labor unions came out Monday to celebrate Labor Day, and to push forward with labor agenda items like Medicare for All.

In Portland, the Southern Maine Labor Council’s breakfast began at 7 a.m. Monday. The keynote speaker was Jose La Luz, a campaigner for Medicare for All who was one of the organizers of the successful campaign for collective bargaining rights for Puerto Rico’s public sector workers.

La Luz says the organized labor movement has a “pivotal role” to play in shaping the debate about universal health care in the U.S. He says the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates have done well in popularizing the idea that health care is a right, and that it’s a real misperception that only industrialized European countries can afford universal health care.

“If nations that are not necessarily industrialized nations across the Atlantic like Mexico and Argentina have universal health care, why shouldn’t we in the wealthiest nation on Earth?” he says.

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Credit Nora Flaherty / Maine Public
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Maine Public
Douglas Born

Douglas Born is the president of the Southern Maine Labor Council, and a member of Maine’s stagehands union, IATSE Local 114. He says overall, it’s been a good year for unions, and that people’s attitudes toward them seem to be changing.

“Certainly people’s perspective of unions is on the upswing…and that’s a really good thing,” he says.

Born says a major victory in the last year for Maine unions was the decision by staff at Preble Street, a social service agency in Portland, Lewiston and Bangor, to become part of the Maine State Employees Association.

The Maine AFL-CIO held four events Monday — in Portland, Winslow, Lewiston and Brewer. Democratic Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders had been scheduled to attend the Portland breakfast, but canceled.