Today, the Maine Legislature’s Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee voted down so-called “right to work” bills that would hamper unions’ ability to advocate for Maine workers. The bills would permit employees, both public and private, to reap the benefits that unions obtain for them without requiring them to pay dues that are necessary for the unions to operate. Governor LePage and some Republicans in the Maine Legislature have championed these bills arguing that they would make Maine more business friendly.
Mike Williams, a firefighter from South Portland who was in Augusta for a news conference regarding these bills, reportedly said right-to-work legislation “will make it harder for firefighters like myself, nurses, snowplow drivers, corrections officers and other hardworking public employees to establish safe working conditions for themselves and safe communities for all of us. Putting hard-working public service workers at risk will make it harder to find and keep the best people for these jobs. The fact is this governor was elected to work on creating jobs but instead he’s attacking working people.”
Although unions have had success in improving the working conditions of employees, union membership is at all-time low levels. In 2012, the percentage of American workers that belonged to a union was just 11.3%. These so-called “right to work” laws would further weaken unions and further inhibit workers’ ability to collectively bargain for better working conditions.