Solidarity is Always the Answer: how we’re taking collective care & action in a time of crisis

Dear Friends, 

The members, staff, and board of SMWC have been closely monitoring the rapidly changing news and impact of COVID-19 (coronavirus) and the response this week. The times we are in are uncertain and unknown. We’ve never been a Workers’ Center under circumstances like these, and we are trying to pivot quickly to respond to the needs of our community.

One thing that we do know is that a crisis can crystalize the underlying problems that created the crisis in the first place. And crises will be used by the corporations, the wealthy, and their interests to further profit off our hardship. However, if we organize, these moments can also open up new pathways to systemic solutions. As movement visionary Grace Lee Boggs has taught us, “a crisis is not only a danger but also an opportunity. With a human rights approach that centers universality and equity, we have the opportunity to weather this storm together. We have the opportunity to take care of each other and to continue to build power so that we all have what we need to thrive.

We are hearing from workers and other folks that this combination of public health and economic crisis is untenable and there is a need to get organized and take action. We want to help folks think about how to organize in this moment. We want to lift up the solutions coming from the collective imagining, resistance, and love of people who are most directly affected. We want, especially, to center the experiences and solutions of Black, immigrant, indigenous, and communities of color who will be disproportionately impacted by this crisis. 

It is in that spirit that we offer the updates and resources below. As always, please feel free to be in touch with any questions. We will respond as quickly as possible—but please be patient, as we’re a small staff navigating a lot right now. Thank you in advance. 

Solidarity is always the answer, 

DrewChristopher Joy, Executive Director & Meaghan LaSala, Board Chair

Collective Care & Community Organizing

First, we want to let you know what measures we are taking to help keep staff and members safe and our work accountable to our broader community:

  • Effectively immediately, staff will work remotely.
  • Committee and other meetings will be held online and/or over the phone. We will work with members to make sure they have access to and know how to use the technology they need to participate. 
  • Our Workers’ Rights Legal Clinic will be postponed indefinitely, though people will still be able to reach us through our Workers’ Support Hotline. 
  • We are postponing our Annual Meeting that was scheduled for Saturday, April 4th. We do not yet have a date for when that will be held. 
  • We’ll be working on setting up mutual aid to support SMWC members, their families, co-workers, and loved ones during this crisis. Let us know if you want to get involved by contacting 
  • We are assessing how we can best direct our resources to respond to the flood of contacts we are receiving from folks who are already feeling the economic strain of this crisis. 


We are taking these measures because, from what we have read, while individual risk remains low for many, the best thing we can do for the good of the community and society as a whole is to act immediately to “flatten the curve” or slow the exponential spread of the COVID-19. We encourage all of you to take the actions you can to limit physical contact and large gatherings, work from home, if you can, and wash your hands more than you ever have before. People who are older than 65, are immunocompromised, or have other health issues, or are caretakers of those folks, should take special care to limit physical contact with others. If we show up each other now, and act collectively, we can protect ourselves and each other for the long-haul.

Economic Impact

We are grateful to have the flexibility in our organizational work, to allow staff to largely work at home, and to shift our practices to accommodate the needs of this moment. Most workers, and many of our members, face very different circumstances. The economic impact will hit many more people directly and immediately than the virus itself. Businesses of all sizes must take responsibility to protect their workers and public health. City, state, and national governments must take actions to create policy that defends workers’ health, and lessen the economic impact on low wage workers, working class, and poor people. Marginalized people will carry the brunt of this crisis and policy must reflect that understanding. 

We are working to understand and address the cascading impact of this crisis on working class people, from work closings, to childcare, to housing issues. We’re also thinking about the demands we can make on policy and workplaces to make things better–now and in the future.  Please fill out our survey, so we can better understand what you are up against, and what we can collectively do about it.

Click here to fill out the survey!

Paid Sick Days

SMWC has said for years that our communities as a whole, including workers, businesses, and overall public health, are better off with a universal paid sick days policy. The reasons for that are now clearer than ever.

Unfortunately, the City of Portland and the State of Maine missed huge opportunities to be prepared for this crisis when they failed to pass and implement strong paid sick days ordinances last year. It’s now clear that a guaranteed 14 day paid sick day policy is the bare minimum of what employers should be providing to protect their employees and public health in a time of crisis. 

We are incredibly disappointed that Gov. Mills has encouraged employers to be “generous” with their paid time off policies, instead of simply moving up the implementation of the state paid time off law passed last year. Without the Governor’s support, this law—which has minimal coverage but would at least provide a starting point–won’t go into effect until January of 2021. We need more, now. 

Nationally, the “families first” coronavirus response bill, passed by the house on Friday, March 13th, includes temporary measures to support and protect workers, including 14 days of paid sick time, and enhanced family and medical leave for some workers. Universality is key for creating policy that actually serves its intended purpose. The paid sick days policy put forward in this bill excludes 80% of workers, including those who work at the largest corporations in this country. Democrats must move beyond optics, and actually fight for workers who are on the frontlines of this crisis. 

Businesses themselves can also lead the way–and in this moment they must. Many of the businesses that endorsed our paid sick days campaign already had or have implemented paid sick days policies. We call on all employers to implement policies now, if they haven’t already, especially if they publicly supported sick days legislation. It’s past time to live our values.  

Temporary & Permanent Work Closures 

We are already hearing from many of our members about the places they are working temporarily closing, leaving workers without hours and income they are dependent on. We’re also hearing from people who have lost hours or lost their jobs. The federal government has released new guidance to states to update unemployment law to help workers in several scenarios related to COVID-19, including temporary or permanent business closures, quarantine, care of a family member, and other circumstances. 

Gov. Mils is bringing legislation to implement this guidance in Maine, and it is very important that these measures pass. We will be working hard to ensure that Maine’s Department of Labor takes all measures possible to provide support for workers who have lost their jobs or hours. If you have lost work for any of these reasons, please contact us. We will also be offering a webinar on navigating unemployment insurance soon. 

We’ve heard from a few workers asking for their employers to close for the sake of public health and their health as workers. Many workers are feeling trapped at work, facing the impossible choice of forgoing public health recommendations or losing vital income.  40% of Americans don’t have enough reserves to deal with a $400 emergency. Many small businesses fear shutting down or not making payroll. To deal with the immediate crisis, we must demand action from lawmakers and employers to ensure that every person that needs it has access to paid time off and unemployment in order to stay afloat. We also support local, state or federal funding to help small businesses afford to do the right things by their employees and public health.

Health Care is a Human Right

If there ever was a moment to illustrate why universal, publicly funded health care is the only way to manage health care in a world in which we are all interconnected, this is that moment. We hope that this crisis can be the tipping point that leads the country to national Medicare for All. 

In the meantime, Maine should lead the way by ensuring that all testing and treatment related to the COVID-19 is free at the point of service for everyone regardless of their insurance status.

With Love & Solidarity

We will continue to update you as this crisis unfolds. In the meantime, please take care of yourselves & each other. Social distance doesn’t need to mean social isolation, and we will continue to organize, build power, and be in community with all of you. Together, we can keep fighting for the health, safety, and dignity of all our members—and, ultimately, for all of our communities. Solidarity forever.

We’re Hiring! Join the team as our Health Care is a Human Right Community Organizer

Health Care is a Human Right Community Organizer 

Job Description

This is a full time, exempt position. Benefits include ample paid sick time & vacation and health insurance. This is a one-year position starting on or about November 18, 2019 and ending on or about November 13, 2020. 

This position is housed within the Southern Maine Workers’ Center’s (SMWC) Health Care is a Human Right Committee.We believe that a health care system treated as a public good and based on human rights principles is a fundamental step toward economic and racial justice. We work on short term health care reform campaigns as part of our long-term campaign to transform the health care system to be universal and publicly financed. 

SMWC is a member-led, basebuilding organization. Outreach, member recruitment, grassroots mobilizations, leadership development, and political education are key to our theory of change. This position will work across all of SMWC’s program areas to develop and sharpen effective and transformational basebuilding practices. 

TO APPLY: Send a resume and cover letter to Applications are due on October 18, 2019. 


This position will coordinate the member-driven Health Care is a Human Right Committee to carry out campaigns for health care reform, arts and education projects, and coalition building with a focus on basebuilding and developing member leadership. Other responsibilities include creating campaign strategy and field plans, building and participating in local and national coalitions, and committee related communications. This position will also coordinate and supervise member and volunteer participation in HCHR programs. 

In addition to HCHR responsibilities, the position with work with staff and members to coordinate across all of SMWC’s committees and programs and support organization-wide events, policies, and education. 

Coordination & Supervision

  • Coordinate and support the part-time HCHR Organizer’s outreach & basebuilding work
  • Coordinate and supervise member-leaders’ programmatic work
  • Coordinate volunteers for events and data management

Outreach & Membership Development

  • Create field and outreach strategies for campaigns and programs
  • Recruit and activate members through outreach, follow up, and one-on-ones
  • Develop leadership development strategies for HCHR committee & SMWC as a whole


Coalition Building

  • Identify and build relationships with new and existing community partners
  • Represent SMWC in related local and national coalition meetings
  • Coordinate coalition and community partner meetings  


HCHR Leadership Committee (HCHR-LC)

  • Coordinate the HCHR-LC or other HCHR committees, including member attendance and participation, and ensuring that members are accountable for work between meetings. 
  • Create agendas for meetings or work with members to create agendas
  • Facilitate decision making and planning by the committee


Health Care Policy

  • Be or become knowledgeable about state and local health care policy, including Medicare for All, single payer, medicaid, and MaineCare, and other relevant policy. 
  • Support and develop policy and legislative advocacy strategies



This job has fluctuating hours with a combination of self-directed and committee-directed scheduling. Must be able to work some nights and weekends (for meetings and events) in addition to weekdays. Position is supervised by the Executive Director, and works in coordination with the HCHR-LC Leadership Committee members. 


  • At minimum 3-5 years experience with transformative labor and/or community organizing, including one-on-one organizing conversations, facilitation, leadership development, event coordination, campaign development; and a willingness to talk to strangers
  • Self-directed; able to work independently
  • Comfortable working collectively (including group decision-making, collaborative writing, and meeting/event co-facilitation)
  • Aligned with the SMWC’s political orientation, community agreements, and goals as outlined in the SMWC Membership Agreements and Values Statement
  • Experience with policy and legislative advocacy
  • Demonstrated writing skills
  • Ability to speak multiple languages is ideal
  • Women, People of Color, LBGTQ people, poor and working class people are encouraged to apply. 

Rep. Larry Lockman’s Scapegoating and Fearmongering are Intended to Keep Maine too Paralyzed to Envision a Better Future

By Peggy Marchand, Health Care is a Human Right Committee Member

The Southern Maine Workers’ Center endorsed  LD 1317, “An Act To Restore Services To Help Certain Noncitizens Meet Their Basic Needs”, as part of our Health Care is Human Right campaign. We believe all people should get the health care they need, and are organizing for universal health care in Maine and support Medicare for All nationally. We also believe that racism and xenophobia, are used by people in power to keep us from realizing our human rights. This essay a rebuttal to a hateful op-ed written by Rep. Larry Lockman in the Ellsworth American (we won’t drive more traffic to the post by linking it here),  which lays out why scapegoating and racism are keeping our state from finding solutions to the issues that impact all of us. 

Our friends at Maine Equal Justice have set a goal to get 500 messages to legislators to support two critical health care priorities for low-income Mainers!

In his recent article printed in the Ellsworth American, (Non-Citizen Welfare Shortchanges Maine Seniors, May 10, 2019) Rep. Lawrence Lockman states his dismay at “the avalanche of hideous legislation,” including LD 1317, the bill proposed by Representative Drew Gattine that that seeks restore eligibility for MaineCare and other safety net programs to immigrants. Like his old mentor and ally, former Governor Paul LePage, Lockman furiously casts blame and blatantly ignores facts, needs, and root causes.

Current economic issues in the state of Maine are far too serious and complex to use scapegoating to defend xenophobic points of view. Beyond the fact that we have a human obligation to welcome people fleeing political and economic hardship, the presence and contributions of the immigrants and refugees who move here may save Maine from a work force disaster.

Our state is in economic trouble and neither immigrants nor those who wish to find ways to support them are the causes of Maine’s work force crisis. Moreover, it is time to acknowledge that welcoming immigrants could be a huge help in Maine’s successfully weathering our labor crisis, one which analysts say is may be temporary right now, but is in danger of becoming permanent, unless we act to get more people into the work force. Economist Charles Colgan says, “Anything we’re doing now to keep immigrants out and anything we’re not doing to attract people to Maine from the rest of the US and the rest of the world, is going to be deadly for the next decade.” Why? Here are some facts:

Maine has the oldest median age, 44.5 years and the largest number of baby boomers of any state, who now are retiring in record numbers. Our work force is shrinking, and may be down 20,000 workers by 2020.  In 2017, we experienced 2,379 more deaths than births. The Maine Center for Disease Control and Preventions reports that more deaths will not only reduce the number of workers we have contributing their labor, but also warns of the serious impact fewer workers will have on public revenues. Our youth still flee the state for opportunities and lifestyle experiences they perceive are not offered in Maine; it’s hard to keep them here, let alone count on them to fill work force gaps.  And the shortfall is not theoretical, it has begun; the signs “We’re hiring! Help Wanted!” are everywhere. This is Maine’s reality. It will take all of us working together to keep Maine a welcoming place with a viable future. About this information, surely, Rep. Lockman must be aware.

However, in his article, Rep. Lockman chooses to call his House colleague Rep. Gattine “callous and uncaring about the plight of low-income Mainers” and drums up trouble and stirs up prejudices because Gattine is working to pass LD 1317, “An Act to Restore Services to Help Certain Noncitizens Meet their Basic Needs.” Rather than true addressing the human and economic reasons to restore basic public programs to all Maine residents, Lockman sidesteps by suggesting that monies spent on this bill would somehow result in more nursing home closings and that “residents will face the emotional trauma of being relocated further away from loved ones, all because a majority of legislators prioritize foreigners over Mainers.”

Indeed, nursing homes have been closing in Maine, and all across the country, particularly in rural areas.  But the closings are NOT caused by diverting funds from these facilities to immigrants. There are a number of other factors, decidedly unrelated to funding support for immigrants, that make these businesses decide, or feel forced, to close. Here are some: First, a public shift in thinking about nursing homes has led to more unoccupied rooms, which may sound surprising, considering our rapidly aging population. Rather than going to a nursing home, more folks are aware of community options and are using other resources, including in-home care, or assisted living options, or deciding to rely on family members to step up as care-takers. Empty rooms mean fewer funds coming in to support the expenses of these businesses.

Traditionally, nursing homes have survived on very slim profit margins and small financial changes can have large impacts. For many years, they faced low reimbursements from Medicaid, as Lockman pointed out. In fact, reimbursement plans and funding mechanisms continue to be very complicated. Additionally, in 2016, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid instituted a series of new regulations, with a five-year phase in. The requirements are stringent and expensive, costing each facility about $63,000 in the first year and $55,000 in subsequent years, regardless of their number of patients. The industry regards the new regulations as positive and beneficial to patients, but many smaller nursing facilities simply can’t swing the added costs and choose to close. Small town populations are literally dwindling. Families move away after finding their jobs gone, mills closed, and possible replacement jobs offering wages too low to live on. Suddenly, a local nursing home can find itself in a labor crunch, unable to keep doctors on call or find the nurses and support staff to keep all shifts filled 24 hours each day. The plight of the rural nursing home is very real and Lockman is absolutely right to point out how devastating this is to families and their loved ones.

However, Lockman must be called out fomenting racism rather than seeking a honest solution to this problem.  It is long past time to be finding ourselves dealing with leaders who want to make us angry or fearful of newcomers, or who want to separate us with false dichotomies of “us against them,” or use innuendo to make us suspicious. This kind of thinking keeps us locked in a world of prejudice and fear, too paralyzed to envision a better future. We can and must be better than that and look for real solutions to our hard-felt problems. Immigrants can and should be part of our solution. And that’s a fact.

We Applaud Progress on Paid Time Off & Pledge Continued Work to Ensure Protections for All Maine Workers

Southern Maine Workers’ Center and Maine Women’s Lobby Statement on LD 369

Groups Applaud Progress, Pledge Continued Work to Ensure Protections for All Maine Workers

Now that Governor Mills has signed LD 369 into law, Maine will become the 12th state in the country to enact a version of a paid sick time policy, and the first state to pass a general paid time off policy. LD 369 is an important step forward for the workers in Maine who have never been guaranteed any paid time off, and that is something to celebrate. We are proud of the role members of the Southern Maine Workers’ Center and the Maine Women’s Lobby have played for years to elevate the need for paid time off, and to engage workers in fighting for it. We will continue that work until every working person in Maine is covered.

The Southern Maine Workers’ Center and the Maine Women’s Lobby partnered on the issue of earned paid sick time since 2016 and with, the Southern Maine Democratic Socialist of America, built the Keep Workers’ Healthy Coalition that fought a multi-year campaign for an earned paid sick days ordinance in Portland. This bill would have ensured workers in every Portland business could earn up to 5 paid sick days a year.

In rallies, hearings, and on social media, workers bravely stood up for the right to earned paid sick days. Many shared personal stories ranging from sending children to school sick, to experiencing domestic assault, to getting violently ill while working and not being allowed to leave. They spoke on the record to ensure that they, and others, could have the right to heal that so many professionals take for granted. The language of the policy was informed by the lived experience of workers involved in the campaign and the experiences of states and municipalities who had already enacted laws. Our campaign framed paid sick days as a race and gender equity issue, and highlighted the experiences of marginalized workers, including LGBTQ+ families and immigrant communities. We made a compelling case that policy should be universal and cover all workers including part-time, seasonal, and per diem, and include businesses of all sizes.

LD 369 is an important step, and we are grateful in particular, to the leadership of Sen. Rebecca Millet for bringing forward the original legislation. However, work still needs to be done. As amended, the bill excludes people who work at businesses with less than ten employees, seasonal workers, some per diems, state and municipal workers, and others. It has a low accrual rate, making it difficult for part-time workers to use. It includes a preemption clause, which, as intended, undermined the Portland ordinance, and prevents any municipality from passing a more inclusive ordinance in the future. Because of this, some of the very workers who started the push for earned paid sick days in Maine will not be covered by the state law.

We are particularly concerned about the need to ensure protections for workers who attempt to use PTO, including protection from retaliation. The bill contains no definition of what constitutes the emergency use of PTO and places that determination in the hands of managers, leaving workers vulnerable to retaliation.

We will continue to organize to ensure that the rules for how LD 369 is implemented address these needs. Our members will bring their first-hand knowledge to these policy conversations to make sure that workers will actually be able to use the time off they earn for the things they most need it for. When LD 369 goes into effect in 2021, we will educate workers about their rights, and advocate for the workers whose rights are violated. The laws protecting workers are not given, they are fought for, and we will continue that fight.

1115 Waiver Approved – Mainers Unite to Defend MaineCare

In October we launched our campaign against the 1115 MaineCare waiver, because these attacks on MaineCare will move us further away from our vision of a universal, publicly funded health care system. Yesterday, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) approved Maine’s 1115 waiver application, paving the way for thousands of Mainers to lose their health care coverage. Just as we are finally poised to win MaineCare expansion, the LePage-appointed DHHS administration continues advancing its agenda to dismantle MaineCare. We are committed to stoping the implementation of the waiver, and to building a powerful movement to win a health care system based on our human rights, not corporate profits. Read our press release about the approval below.

For Immediate Release
Contact: Meaghan LaSala

Portland, ME: The Southern Maine Workers’ Center and coalition partners are committed to stopping implementation of Maine’s 1115 Demonstration Waiver, approved Friday, December 21st by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). If implemented, the 1115 Waiver will fundamentally restructure MaineCare, stripping many people of their access to care by creating deadly bureaucratic and financial barriers. In Arkansas where similar measures have been implemented, thousands of Medicaid recipients have lost coverage.

On October 28, The Southern Maine Workers’ Center launched a campaign against the waiver, and has been organizing Mainers who would be impacted by the changes.

Mark James is a member of the Southern Maine Workers’ Center, and a MaineCare recipient. James said at the campaign-launch, “I wasn’t working when I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma the first time. I knew if I hadn’t had MaineCare I probably would have died. I was living in Aroostook county, in rural northern Maine, where there are not a lot of jobs. They say this is to incentivize work. I say these requirements are set up to kick working poor people off of MaineCare.”

DHHS misleadingly portrays the 1115 waiver as a way to incentivize work in order to distract from its aims to cut access to healthcare, stigmatize low-income people, undercut both MaineCare and the Affordable Care Act, and transfer resources from poor people to corporations and the wealthy. In addition to punitive work requirements, the changes would include new cost burdens, premiums, penalties and fees, asset tests, fines for missed appointments, and burdensome, expensive paperwork.
For more information about the campaign against the waiver, contact Workers’ Center member Meaghan LaSala: 973-862-7105,



You’re invited to…



 What is it?

The Southern Maine Workers’ Center is hosting its biggest grassroots fundraising event of the year, and we need your help! On Saturday, February 9th at 8pm, SMWC members will be gathering at the Apohadion Theater in Portland to sing their hearts out and raise money to support the core programs of SMWC, from the Workers’ Rights Legal Clinic to our organizing against Medicaid work requirements to our political education work in the community and more!


How does it work?

It’s kind of like raising money to run in a road race…except your road race is a night of karaoke! Each person will commit to raising a certain amount of money. For the month ahead of the event, you’ll use an online fundraising platform to make a personalized page to tell your community why you are raising money for SMWC. Using social media, personal emails, or in person asks, you’ll be inviting people you know to donate to SMWC. To make it fun you can promise to sing an embarrassing song at karaoke or offering to let your highest donor choose your song. Members of SMWC fundraising committee will be available to support you to set up your page or think about how to meet your goal.

To celebrate our success, we will participate in a super fun, really sweet night of karaoke singing with the broader SMWC community on Saturday, February 9th, at the Apohadion Theater in Portland at 107 Hanover Street. There will be drinks, food, and lots of charming singing. We promise.


What’s the fundraising goal?

We have set a goal of raising $10,000 with this event. This is our biggest fundraising goal EVER!  It’s going to take a collective member effort to make sure we realize it!


What if karaoke is my worst nightmare?

You can still sign up to raise money and just attend the event. This is a consent-based model: no one has to do karaoke if they don’t want to!


How can I sign up?

Just tell one of the Fundraising Committee members you want to do it, and we’ll send you a link to the fundraising platform. You can talk to: Jo Bell, Sue Bragg, John Ochira, Jan Bindas-Tenney, Nicole Manganelli, or Drew Joy. We’re so excited!! THANK YOU!

For LGBTQ+ young people, access to affordable, comprehensive, low-barrier healthcare is a lifeline.

Good afternoon! My name is Osgood and I’m the Director of Portland Outright.

As an organization by and for low-income LGBTQ+ people, Portland Outright’s work is inextricably linked to the work of organizing for the human right healthcare. Every time Outright youth leaders organize–for better access to healthy foods for incarcerated youth, for the right to live in safe housing, for trans-competent healthcare providers–this is the work of healthcare justice.

For LGBTQ+ young people, access to affordable, comprehensive, low-barrier healthcare is a lifeline. We see the work of advancing health equity for marginalized communities as integral to ending youth incarceration and youth homelessness. Lack of resources and barriers to good health perpetuate the criminalization of LGBTQ+/GNC youth. As an alternative to incarceration, LGBTQ+ youth need therapeutic, holistic, trauma-informed, community-based care and healing. Outright is an LGBTQ+ youth-led movement whose aim is to achieve this vision of health and equity for our communities.

Recently, the Trump administration announced plans to roll back the basic rights of Transgender people–hard won victories which protect trans people’s right to self-determination, to healthcare and to safe housing, to be safe at school and at work. Since that time, communities around our country have suffered brutal attacks on their safety and lives–in community spaces and in public.

We also know that acts of state violence–including the state violence which drives cuts to MaineCare, including the changes proposed in the 1115 Waiver –disproportionately impacts people of color, queer and trans folks, and low-income people in our community. That this kind of systemic violence is a tactic used to keep us divided, to stop us from building the collective power needed to transform our communities.

When the state creates scarcity–in services, in resources, in care–there have always been community networks that open their doors and pick up the slack. We draw power from and model our programs after generations of trans people living in the margins who created deep abundance and rich networks of support from very little. It is in this tradition that we understand youth organizing and anti-oppression work as an act of love.

We must continue to organize and to take care of one another, because this is the key to our survival and creates the blueprint for the world we are building together. Our healthcare system should reflect the vision and values that are present in the work we do together everyday–interdependence, healing, justice. Now, more than ever, we must organize boldly and broadly towards the world we know is possible.

The 1115 Medicaid Waiver is Just Another War on the Poor

On Sunday, October 28th, the Southern Maine Workers’ Center held the Rally to Protect and Expand Access to Health Care. The rally connected the dots between the well-known issue of MaineCare expansion, which, while passed by voters has still not been implemented; lesser know attacks on our health care system, including the proposed Section 1115 Waiver which would create, among other things, job requirements for Medicaid; and the growing momentum in a nationwide call  for Medicare for All. We’re sharing some of the powerful speeches from the rally so they continue to inspire the health care is a human right movement in Maine. Now is the time to hold our newly elected officials accountable to enact their promises to improve health care. Please let your representative know that you opposed the proposed changes to MaineCare in the 1115 Waiver.  Please let Governor-elect that in addition to implementing the medicaid expansion, we need  her to rescind the 1115 Waiver!

Mark James, Member of SMWC’s Health Care is a Human Right Committee

Hello, my name is Mark James. I’m a grateful MaineCare recipient. I’m grateful because without it I would be dead. I wasn’t working when I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma the first time. I knew if I hadn’t had MaineCare I would probably have died. It all happened so fast. I was living in Aroostook county, in rural northern Maine, where there are not a lot of jobs. The MaineCare 1115 waiver and proposed work requirements do not consider geography, or the fact that many people go without work because there is none to be had. Health care shouldn’t be equated with how many good paying jobs there are in your region of the state.

These waiver requirements are set up to discriminate against the working poor, and find ways to kick people off MaineCare. These punitive work requirements don’t take into account people who work hard taking care of loved ones, which is generally unpaid. I know, because I was a full-time caretaker for both my mother, and my partner of 27 years. When you are caring full time for a loved one, you don’t have time to constantly fill out paperwork.

The paperwork associated with these work requirements is costly bureaucracy, and will lead to many people who should be exempt still losing their coverage because of new barriers they have to overcome. Not to mention, if you miss a premium, fee or co-payment, they could kick you off your MaineCare after just 90 days! So, if you’re working poor and you get sick and can’t pay the premium, you’re screwed either way.

They say this is to incentivize work. I say these requirements are set up to kick working poor people off MaineCare. These policies are setting people up for failure. This does nothing to move us towards our goal of universal health care. It’s another war on the poor to discriminate and humiliate people. That is why I am glad to be part of a movement that sees people’s humanity. We need universal healthcare now, because Health Care is a Human Right!

Together we will create a future where everyone has the health care they need and deserve.

On Sunday, October 28th, the Southern Maine Workers’ Center held the Rally to Protect and Expand Access to Health Care. The rally connected the dots between the well-known issue of MaineCare expansion, which, while passed by voters has still not been implemented; lesser know attacks on our health care system, including the proposed Section 1115 Waiver which would create, among other things, job requirements for Medicaid; and the growing momentum in a nationwide call  for Medicare for All. We’re sharing some of the powerful speeches from the rally so they continue to inspire the health care is a human right movement in Maine.  

Kathy Kilrain del Rio, Policy Analyst, Maine Equal Justice

photo by Roger Marchand

Mainers know that access to affordable health care is a basic human need, no matter our race, gender, background, or how much money we have. That’s why we came together to expand Medicaid at the ballot box last November. Voters across Maine understood that expanding Medicaid, also know as MaineCare, is a commonsense fix to get health care coverage for 70,000 more people in our state. It’s also why we’ve stood up to protect the Affordable Care Act time and time again.

Governor LePage has actively fought against Mainers’ access to this life-saving health care for years and continues to do so today. Despite 59 percent of voters casting a vote for expansion, he has used his power to try to block the will of Maine people by delaying over and over again the implementation of  this new law. He will not succeed.  We haven’t stood idly by. Together with partner organizations and the support of people who need this coverage, we have taken to the courts to force the LePage administration to follow the law, we worked to pass the funding he claims to need in the legislature – funding he then vetoed. Our family, friends, and neighbors need to be able to get health care and we won’t stop fighting until they do get it.

At the federal level, we continue to face attacks on the Affordable Care Act. And, the Trump administration is eager to add barriers to state Medicaid programs through the 1115 waiver process – even though a federal judge already found that barriers like job requirements are in opposition to the statutory purpose of the Medicaid program which is to serve the health and wellness needs of our nation’s families and individuals with limited incomes. Should Maine’s 1115 waiver be approved, we will fight that as well.

Those politicians who want to reduce access to health care have shown time and again that they will use hateful rhetoric to divide us—often blaming poor people, immigrants, and people of color for the problems with our health care system. The reality is that our economic system and our health care system do not work for people with low incomes without programs like Medicaid. Low-wage jobs without health benefits, the gig economy, discrimination, and our broken immigration system make it difficult if not impossible for many people to gain financial security and get the medical care they need and deserve.

It doesn’t have to be this way. When we join together across our social, economic, and racial differences, we win. Every person in our state deserves access to high quality, affordable, and comprehensive health care. Every one of us. We can make a difference by sharing our stories with our personal networks as well with the media and policymakers. We can make a difference by electing champions for health care who share our values. We can make absolutely make a difference by voting on Nov. 6th just like we voted to expand Medicaid last year. We’re asking Mainers to pledge to be a health care voter and we launched a website to make sure voters have the information they need before they go to the polls or vote early by absentee ballot. You can make the pledge and get more information at

Together we will create a future where everyone has the health care they need and deserve.

Rally to Protect & Expand Health Care | Sun, Oct 28

Southern Maine Workers’ Center and Supporters Hold Rally for Universal Health Care; 
Launch Campaign Against MaineCare 1115 Waiver

For Immediate Release
Contact: Meaghan LaSala

Portland, ME: While thousands of Medicaid recipients in Arkansas lose their health coverage due to punitive work requirements, The Southern Maine Workers’ Center (SMWC) is launching a campaign to stop similar attacks on MaineCare. On Sunday, October 28 at 1:00 p.m. in Monument Square, SMWC along with a coalition of supporters will Rally to Protect and Expand Health Care. (The rally, originally planned for Saturday, was postponed to Sunday, October 28 due to weather).

The rally will feature testimony from MaineCare recipients, and amplify broad public support for universal, publicly funded health care in the lead-up to midterm elections. Mainers overwhelmingly voted to expand MaineCare access, and over 83% of Mainers surveyed by SMWC support universal, publicly funded health care, but DHHS is denying the will of the people by attempting to undemocratically dismantle MaineCare using an 1115 Waiver.

If implemented, the 1115 Waiver will fundamentally restructure MaineCare, stripping many people of their access to care by creating deadly bureaucratic and financial barriers. The Southern Maine Workers’ Center is committed to organizing everyday people across Maine to secure a universal healthcare system that guarantees healthcare to all residents, and will resist these changes that would move Maine in the wrong direction.

The rally is co-sponsored by Maine AllCare, Maine Health Care is a Human Right, Maine Inside Out, Maine State Nurses Association, Portland Outright and Portland Overdose Prevention Site (OPS).

Mark James is a member of the Southern Maine Workers’ Center, and a MaineCare recipient. James said about the campaign, “We believe that a person’s access to fair and affordable healthcare should be tied to their humanity, not to any other aspect of their identity like employment, citizenship, family, or income. MaineCare has saved my life, and I want everyone to have the same access to care when they need it.”


DHHS misleadingly portrays the 1115 waiver as a way to incentivize work in order to distract from its aims to cut access to healthcare, stigmatize low-income people, undercut both MaineCare and the Affordable Care Act, transfer resources from poor people to corporations and the wealthy, and undermine Mainers’ commitment to taking collective action as a state to meet our shared needs. The following stipulations, along with the expensive and burdensome bureaucracy that they would require, would devastate many of the poor and working class Mainers who rely on access to MaineCare.


People on Medicaid would be required to continually submit paperwork proving where they work and how many hours a week they are employed. But Mainers do all kinds of formal and informal work, like working multiple jobs and providing unpaid caregiving for loved ones that would be hard to document and in many cases wouldn’t qualify as “work” under these rules at all. We should get healthcare based on our medical needs, not on how much money we have or whether we happen to be employed. No one “deserves” to be denied healthcare.


The waiver would place new cost burdens on people that would make it hard if not impossible for people to get care. Everyone enrolled in MaineCare would be denied care until they are able to come up with money to pay premiums and copays, and if they ever miss a payment, they can be kicked out of MaineCare after just 90 days.


Anyone who has more than $5,000 in savings would be kicked out of MaineCare. This will deny people healthcare and prevent people who really need to stay on MaineCare from being able to save even basic emergency funds for their families. Low income Mainers should not be forced to choose between building a modest savings and their healthcare.


Poor and working class people often have limited transportation, inflexible bosses, medical conditions, and other challenges that make it hard to get to appointments. Instead of helping people make their doctors’ appointments, the waiver would punish patients by allowing providers to charge patients for any appointments they miss.


To stay eligible for MaineCare, people would be required to fill out endless paperwork documenting that they are following all of these rules. If they can’t figure out or keep up with all the paperwork, they will be kicked out.

For further questions, please contact Meaghan LaSala at the Southern Maine Workers Center at 973-862-7105.
Social Media hashtags: #EnoughForAll | #CantWaiveME | #HealthCareisaHumanRight