Nearly 200 Maine workers were at the statehouse Thursday, lobbying in favor of measures that would establish paid sick leave, public employees' right to strike, and a public-owned electric utility.
Aroostook County loggers were also there in support of a bill to allow forest workers and log haulers to unionize.
Cynthia Phinney is president of the Maine chapter of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO). She says with the Democratic governor and legislature, labor in Maine has reasons to feel optimistic.
“Well we did elect more people who understand these issues, and believe in having things work for workers, and understand that having things work for businesses only doesn't necessarily trickle down,” Phinney says. “We have more of those folks in the legislature.”
Phinney says it's also encouraging that should these bills pass the legislature, they are less likely to face a veto now than they would have under the previous administration of Republican Gov. Paul Lepage.
“We're feeling more optimistic and less like we're completely on the defensive than we have for the past few years,” Phinney says.
The AFL-CIO is also urging support for bills requiring that mental injuries be treated the same as physical injuries in workers’ compensation claims, and restoring cost of living adjustments to workers’ comp benefits for injured workers.