We Won’t Let our Rights be Traded Away Behind Closed Doors

We Won’t Let our Rights be Traded Away Behind Closed Doors

Late at night on Friday, June 30th, a compromise budget failed to pass in the state house, triggering a shutdown of Maine state government, which ended late on July 3rd. While we are grateful that this manufactured crisis has ended, we know that the outcome will be impacting our communities for years to come.

At the heart of this shutdown was a 3% tax on Maine’s wealthiest residents to fully fund the state’s commitment to education funding, which was passed by Maine voters in a referendum last November. Instead of honoring the will of Maine people, some members of the legislature used their power to protect the wealthy from paying their fair share. The tax was not included in the final budget, which undermines our democracy as well as equitable funding of our education system.

In order to get away with this, the budget has been used by our Governor and some representatives to divide and conquer: to pit workers, working class and poor people against each other as we fight for the programs that impact us most closely. Racism and xenophobia have been used to keep us from uniting to fight back against this attack on our values and democracy. State workers were used as bargaining chips in a false game of policies over people. When we use a human rights framework we are able to see immigrants, state workers, people with disabilities, those who need health care, and those who provide health care as being on the same side.

Members of SMWC went to the Statehouse to act in solidarity with government workers during the shutdown.
Members of SMWC went to the Statehouse to act in solidarity with government workers during the shutdown.

Between now and our next budget, we must organize ourselves across division in order to shift power back to the people. If we have learned anything this year, we know that we have to do more than just vote. We have to be organized and ready to hold politicians, across parties, accountable when they ignore the results of the democratic process. We are the ones who can demand a budget based on human need and human rights that is equitably financed.

We must organize no matter what party is in power. Until we have universal health care, paid sick, family and medical leave, work with dignity, education, justice for black & brown people living under state violence, sovereignty for Indigenous people, freedom of migration–until we have all of these things, we will continue to organize and resist.

The Southern Maine Workers’ Center has a long and steadfast commitment to building a grassroots human rights movement with all who understand that each one of our struggles is interdependent and interconnected. As we breathe a sigh of relief at the end of the shutdown, let’s recommit ourselves to organizing toward a world where justice, dignity and human rights are guaranteed to all people, and can’t be traded away behind closed doors.

To get involved with the Southern Maine Workers Center and out movement for human rights join us an upcoming meeting:

July 15th, 10-Noon • Work With Dignity Meeting • 68 Washington Ave, Portland •  If the state won’t respect our right to work with dignity, we’ll go to our local communities! Join our campaign for a universal paid sick days campaign in Portland. 

July 22nd, 10-Noon • Health Care is a Human Right Meeting • 68 Washington Ave, Portland • Let’s change this political game but uniting across Maine to demand a universal, publicly funded health care system. Read Enough for All: A People’s Report on Health Care here. 

We also organize in Lewiston/Auburn, Biddeford/Saco, Sanford/Springvale, and Bath/Brunswick. Contact our HCHR organizer for details: ronald@maineworkers.org.