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Maine legislature is considering a bill that would weaken unions which represent public employees

The Maine legislature is considering a so-called “right to work” bill that would adversely affect public-sector unions. The bill would prohibit public-sector unions from collecting fees from non-members who reap the benefits of union services. Currently, public employees that do not join the union must pay a fee of about $5 per week to compensate the union for the services it provides to them. Those services include representation at grievance hearings and salary negotiations. This bill would strip the union of those $5 weekly fees.

According to a labor lawyer who testified before the legislature, the bill (LD 309) would also prohibit the union from collecting dues from its own members after a collective bargaining agreement expires. This would, of course, permit management to starve the union of money it needs to operate in order to extract concessions during negotiations over a new collective bargaining agreement.

Earlier in this legislative session, the Maine Senate killed a similar “right to work” bill that would have impacted private-sector unions. That has not stopped private-sector unions from speaking out against this bill. Joel Pitcher, a member of Local 6 at Bath Iron Works said “it’s divide and conquer, right? They’re basically saying, ‘We’ll take (public employees) first and come after (private) later.’ … We’re ready to join the fight now.”

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