We Believe Survivors. We Know our Rights are at Stake.

The Southern Maine Workers Center believes that all people are entitled to basic human rights that meet basic human needs. Our work is to secure these rights: to ensure that all people have work with dignity and access to the health care they need. We make progress every day, but we know that our rights are at stake with the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. We know that Kavanaugh will use his position to undermine basic human rights through ideological misinterpretations of the law. We unequivocally oppose his confirmation on several fronts.

First, we believe survivors and we believe Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. We know that as perpetrator of gender-based violence, Kavanaugh is not fit to serve on the Supreme Court. Additionally, this confirmation process is demonstrating that some of our elected officials don’t care about the experiences of survivors of sexual assault, which impacts the well-being of women, and survivors of all genders, in our membership and beyond. And while Kavanaugh’s conduct alone is enough to deem him unworthy of a seat on the most important judicial body in the United States, we also know that Kavanaugh’s positions on numerous issues are a direct attack on the lives of our members.

Second, we know from his D.C. Circuit court record that Judge Kavanaugh will actively work to revoke the already limited protections workers currently have. We’ve seen from his rulings that he sides with big business over workers. We know that he is hostile to unions, hostile to the the rights of workers to sue their employers, and even hostile to the idea that workers should have safe working conditions. We can anticipate less ability for workers to address other injustices in the workplace—whether that’s discrimination, sexual harassment, unsafe conditions, or better wages. Maine’s working people, who Senator Collins claims to respect and represent, would be deeply harmed by her vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh.

Third, we know from his record that Judge Kavanaugh has no respect for the human right to health care and could cast the deciding vote in cases that would undermine access to life-saving care. We’ve seen from his rulings that he will work to undermine the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the right to comprehensive reproductive health care, including abortion. As governors across the country, including in Maine, attempt to block Medicaid expansion in their states by passing punitive job requirements and premiums on very low-income people, we can expect Kavanaugh to align himself with right wing ideology, rather than the mission of the Medicaid program. Senator Collins has played an important role in protecting the ACA, but confirming Kavanaugh would undermine the stance that she took on that issue: betraying her constituents, in addition to being reckless with human lives.

Finally, we know that the conservative agenda cannot be separated from systemic racism and misogyny.  Kavanaugh’s record makes clear that he will make decisions that further institutionalize and legitimize xenophobia and racism and attempt to undermine the humanity of immigrants and people of color. We believe in the worth and dignity of all people.

We know that the justice and court systems do not currently serve all or protect all people. We know that we can not allow further degradation of our human rights by allowing Judge Kavanaugh access to the Supreme Court. We believe that Senator Collins has a conscience. It remains to be seen if she will follow it.

Judge Brett Kavanaugh is a danger to workers.

On July 28, 2018, I spoke at a rally in opposition to the nomination of Supreme Court Nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh. While I was generally aware of the concerns about Kavanaugh’s nomination, I wasn’t as familiar with his opinions on workers’ right.  Looking into it was chilling. I’m sharing my comments from the rally so people can learn more about the possible impact of a Supreme Court with Judge Kavanaugh on working people. I urge you to call Senator Collins and Senator King to let them know why you are opposed to Kavanaugh’s nomination. –DrewChristopher Joy, Executive Director, Southern Maine Workers’ Center 

I’m the director of the Southern Maine Workers’ Center and one of the things we do is run a hotline for workers who have experienced injustice in the workplace. We talk to workers all over the state, who are desperately looking for support after something unsafe, unfair, or unlawful has happened at their workplace. The truth is, that a lot of the time there’s not a lot we can do for them. There’s a lot of unjust things that happen on jobs sites, and even when things are illegal, it can be really hard to get help.

This is to say that conditions for workers right now are bleak we don’t have a lot of power and the power we do have is being corroded. The scale in this country is tipped toward employers and hard working Maine people need the scales tipped back toward them. Not further away.

The one tool that workers have always had, for building power and creating better working conditions is taking collective action. That doesn’t have to be formal, like a union, but it could be. Collective action might just be a few of people writing a letter together to address an issue in the workplace.

This is a lesson I learn years ago at one of my first jobs. I work delivering ice cream on a bicycle for a Ben & Jerry’s store—this is a longer story, but what’s relevant is that the manager there kept making homophobic remarks to me. I thought about leaving the job, but I really needed the money. I started talking about it with my co-workers, and found out that I wasn’t alone. The reality in most workplaces is that, if it is happening to one person it is almost always happening to all or most of your co-workers. As it turned out the manager had said racist things to one of my coworkers. So my coworker and I decided to write a letter to our manager’s boss. It worked. We got a new manager.

Collective action is the best protection workers have.

Now, that was all a long introduction to say this–the Supreme Court is not a friend to workers right now. And one of the things that is under attack is the right of workers to take collective action. Supreme Court Justice Nominee Brett Kavanaugh is lined right up with that agenda. In fact, he’ll make it worse.

I know that both Senator King and Senator Collins understand themselves to be supporters of working people in Maine, and we need them to show that by voting against the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh.

Here’s the deal. Who here is familiar with the Janus case? It’s bad, right?

Janus is a recent Supreme Court case that ruled that public workers who are protected by a union can’t be forced by union dues. Meaning people can get all the benefits of being in a union without paying into the union that protects them. The ruling was huge blow to public workers that paints a grim picture of what’s to come for other workers.

It’s likely that the Supreme Court will have an opportunity go one step further and apply the same logic to public sector workers. And it’s likely that Brett Kavanaugh would cast the deciding vote.

As our entire country becomes a “right-to-work-for-less” state, we can anticipate lower wages across the board for all workers. And we can anticipate less ability for workers to address other injustices in the work place—whether that’s discrimination, sexual harassment, unsafe conditions, or better wages.

Again, the court has already done some damage to the ability for workers to sue. A recent ruling, the Supreme Court decided that companies can require workers to settle employment disputes through individual arbitration, finding that employees should not always have the ability to bring claims through the courts.

Here’s what Cathy Ruckelshaus, general counsel at the National Employment Law Project said about this:  “It’s keeping people out of courts and unable to get any remedy under the labor and employment statutes.”

Last year Kavanaugh ruled against employees’ right to bring a lawsuit under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA). And he’s likely going to have the case to weigh in on the right of a groups or classes of workers to be forced into arbitration when he’s on the Supreme Court.

Imagine the effect something like will have on workers in a large workplace who are facing the same problem… What could it mean in this #MeToo moment if women in a workplace were forced into arbitration, rather than getting together to sue their employer?

The last example I want to give is the most egregious and worrisome. A group of workers in a meat packing plant in decided to organize for better working condition and they voted to form a union that the company refused to recognize. The workers took the company to court, in a case that landed in front of, you guessed it, Brett Kavanaugh. The company argued that the union wasn’t legal because undocumented workers voted in the election and their votes should not count.

Fortunately, the rest of the judges relied on long standing precedent that the law covers all workers, regardless of immigration status. But, Brett Kavanough, in a lone dissent, sided with the employer, arguing that the law does not apply to undocumented workers and that the votes of undocumented workers should not have counted in the union vote.

We cannot allow the dehumanization of immigrant workers or the formation of second class workers. This opinion is racism. Period. Senators King and Collins, must stand against the bureaucratization of racism and discrimination and refuse to support Brett Kavanough’s appointment.

Working people deserve the opportunity to improve conditions in their work places, for themselves and their coworkers. We must protect the right to take collective action at work. We must continue to allow all workers, regardless of race, gender, immigration status, the opportunity to take collective action to address injustice at work. Allowing ideological judges to undermine those hard-fought worker rights is a disservice to all working people.

“There is no Good Society without a Good Union”: a Faith Perspective on the Janus Case

“There is no Good Society without a Good Union”:

a Faith Perspective on the Janus Case

By Father Mike Seavey

Father Mike Seavey spoke in support of labor unions in front of the Supreme Court on Monday. Father Mike is a member of the Southern Maine Workers’ Center and is the parochial vicar of St. Anne Parish, Gorham; St. Anthony of Padua Parish, Westbrook; and Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Windham

On Monday February 26, 2018; the US Supreme Court heard arguments in the case of Janus vs. AFSCME. The case focused on a public employee labor union’s right to collect “agency fees” from employees who choose not to join a union. The “agency fees” represent a portion of the regular dues paid by union members to cover the costs of negotiating contracts for all employees. AFSCME (American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Workers) is the public employee union Mr. Janus was required to pay “agency fees” to.

Unions argue they are required to represent all employees at the bargaining table, therefore every employee should pay their fair share of the cost. Mr. Janus argued that being forced to pay the agency fee violated his First Amendment right to free speech. The required fee thus forces him to financially support the union’s political agenda which he disagrees with.

The Janus case is well financed by billionaires like the Koch Brothers and the Bradley Foundation which fund libertarian and laisse-faire capitalism causes. They are committed to eliminating unions or at the very least weakening their ability to secure employee’s just wages and benefits and especially weaken their ability to impact political elections.

The Roman Catholic Church strongly supports labor unions and especially the right of workers to organize and bargain collectively for just wages, benefits, and working conditions. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops filed an amicus brief with the US Supreme Court supporting AFSCME’s position. On Monday, February 19th, the public employee union SEIU (Service Employees International Union) contacted me and asked me to be one speaker addressing a labor rally outside the US Supreme Court building while the arguments were being heard inside. 

The recommendation came from Fr. Clete Kiley, a labor activist priest from the Archdiocese of Chicago. Fr. Kiley is attempting to reignite the Catholic Labor Priest Movement and I am supportive of that endeavor. I readily agreed to come to DC and participated in the rally. Below are my comments.

Thanks and gratitude for all of you gathered here today and for the tens of millions of our sisters and brothers with us in spirit. Thanks and gratitude for the work you do daily in every type of job and every sector of profession. Thanks and gratitude for your work raising families and forming true communities. May God bless all of you with peace and joy!

The right for workers to organize and form labor unions has been supported and endorsed by Official Catholic teaching through the teaching office of the popes since 1891. In that year, Pope Leo XIII condemning working and living conditions fostered by the Industrial Revolution, called on Catholic bishops throughout the world to, “Support those who strive to unite working men of various grades into associations, help them with their advice and means, and enable them to obtain fitting and profitable employment.”

Over a century later, both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI echoed that by teaching respectively, unions are “indispensable elements of social life, especially in modern industrialized societies”, and are needed now “even more than in the past, as a prompt and far-sighted response…”.

And the current Holy Father, Pope Francis says it as only Pope Francis does, “There is no good society without a good union, and there is no good union that is not reborn every day in the peripheries, that does not transform discarded stones of the economy into its cornerstones.”

In our nation’s history, there has been one institution and only one institution that has consistently advocated for, defended and promoted working people. That institution is not the government, it is not any political party, nor is it any think tank or corporation. The only institution that has consistently stood by working women and men at all times and under all circumstances are labor unions.

It is no coincidence that the fewer people organized in labor unions, the wider the income and wealth gap in our nation. It is no coincidence that the fewer people organized into labor unions, the more people there are lacking adequate health insurance. It is no coincidence that the fewer people organized into labor unions, there are more people working two and three jobs to make ends meet. This is not conducive to healthy family life or healthy human relationships or healthy sense of self-worth.

Anyone who believes labor unions have lived out their usefulness is living a fool’s dream.  Anyone who believes they can stand alone against the forces of economic exploitation and financial greed has embraced the devil’s bargain.

Try standing alone before “efficiency” determinations downsize your office; leaving you on the outside looking in. Try standing alone before “economic emergencies” rob your pension funds while corporate executives receive salary increases and hefty bonuses. Try standing alone when a recent diagnosis on your family health plan coincides with a soon-to-be layoff targeting only you. You will soon find yourself discarded on the lonely heap of used and abused workers lost in a heartless wasteland.

There is a saying that anyone willing to trade liberty for security deserves neither. That needs to be extended to say “anyone willing to trade solidarity for individual freedom has neither.” That’s “the devil’s bargain”, and” the devil’s bargain” is the petitioner’s argument before the US Supreme Court this morning.

Only in true community do we discover our true identity and the meaning and purpose of our life. True communities are built upon and endure with love and justice. Separating individuals from supportive and protective true communities like unions is a recipe for divide and conquer, isolation and bitter loneliness, and a corrosive anger lashing out at perceived scapegoats as the culprits for their own decline. True community transforms society from the inside out; especially from the heart and soul of every person discarded on the margins of society’s abundance.

The dark forces of economic exploitation, condemned by Pope Leo in 1891 and consistently condemned by popes ever since still face us today. They are fueled by amassed wealth and power; and move against the forces of justice, true community, and true freedom. Their true identity, covered by a veneer of concern for liberty and individual rights, becomes readily apparent when the real agenda comes to the forefront.

The recent federal tax legislation signed into law made a media spectacle of throwing working people a bone. Meanwhile the meat was tossed to those already wealthy and the bill to pay for it all is passed on to everyone’s grandchildren. That was a setback!

We are experiencing and will experience more setbacks because many decks are stacked against us. We will endure these setbacks because we walk with righteousness. No matter the setbacks, keep moving forward. No matter the hostility from a well-financed opposition, keep moving forward. And keep moving forward together.

Whether we win or lose in there today, truth is on our side and no amount of money can purchase truth. Truth always prevails, and truth motivates our just cause. Tell the truth about unions and let the people organize without obstacles to bargain collectively for the common good.

Jesus said, “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing.” Return to your homes and light the fires of solidarity across this nation. Go back home and form communities, true communities where everyone is welcomed and embraced. Go back home and welcome male and female, young and old, rich and poor, worker and supervisor, black, white, Latinx, API and all ethnicities; straight, the LGBTQ community and all orientations; liberal or conservative and all political persuasions, peoples of all faiths or of no faith at all.

Go back home, and form true communities with invitations to everyone who comes into your circles of life. Form true communities and let all who embrace the invitation take their rightful place. Make everyone welcomed and call forth everyone’s gifts to make and shape a community that takes responsibility for the common good of all our people.

Give to all reason to hope. Hope is one of the most precious commodities in our world today. Hope will not die so long as we keep moving forward. Hope will not die so long as there are true communities for people to feel welcomed, safe and valued. Solidarity forever and God’s blessings on you and all your loved ones. Thank you.

We’re Hiring! Join the team as our HCHR organizer

We’re hiring a Health Care is a Human Right Community Organizer

The Southern Maine Workers’ Center is looking for a part time organizer for our Health CarScreen Shot 2017-04-30 at 9.25.47 PMe is a Human Right campaign. At SMWC we believe that a health care system treated as a public good and based on the human rights principles is a fundamental step toward economic and racial justice in our communities. We’re organizing a grassroots movement in Maine to change the health care discourse and policy. Our health care organizer will help us build a strong SMWC membership and a powerful coalition to make health care a human right in Maine.

To apply send a cover letter and resume to: smwcemployment@gmail.com. The deadline for applications is Friday, July 21, 2017.

This is a part time (30 hours a week) salaried position, with paid sick leave & vacation, and health insurance. This organizer will be primarily responsible for building the statewide presence of the Southern Maine Worker Center (SMWC) Health Care is a Human Right Campaign.

This organizer’s primary responsibility is to increase the engagement and leadership of SMWC members, with support from the member-led SMWC Health Screen Shot 2017-06-28 at 2.13.14 PMCare is a Human Right Leadership Committee (HCHR-LC). The goal of this position is to develop structures for member engagement that will last beyond the duration of the position. This includes networking with statewide partners and contacts, creating new HCHR organizing committees, coordinating outreach and campaign activities, and relationship building with prospective members (including follow up calls and home visits)–with a focus on new organizing outside of greater Portland. The HCHR-LC will work with the organizer to identify work priorities and goals.

Membership Development
Develop and re-activate as many contacts for the HCHR campaign as possible.
Develop and support Health Care is a Human Right Organizing Committees in areas of Southern Maine outside of Portland.
Coordinate presentations with other groups, events and organizations.
Support the HCHR Lewiston Organizing Committee in growing the committee and developing member-leaders.
Event Coordination & General Outreach
Coordinate outreach & campaign events and engage HCHR-LC in statewide outreach work.
Make follow up calls to new contacts and/or coordinate volunteer support for followup and turnout calls.
HCHR Coordinating Committee
Participate in the meetings & support the work of HCHR-LC Committee & all Organizing Committees as necessary.

This is a salaried position paying the equivalent of $15/hour, with paid sick days and vacation time, and health insurance.
Flexible hours: This organizer must be able to work some nights and weekends as well as weekdays. There are no set hours.
Position is supervised by the Executive Director.

Experience with transformative grassroots organizing, including one-on-one organizing, leadership development, event coordination, and willingness to talk to strangers
Self-directed: able to work independently.
Demonstrated writing skills.
Aligned with the SMWC’s political orientation, community agreements, and goals, as outlined in the SMWC Membership Agreements
Comfortable working collectively (including group decision-making, collaborative writing, and meeting/event co-facilitation).
Must have own car or access to car to travel as necessary
Women, LGBTQ people, People of Color, and people who are poor or working class are encouraged to apply.

I’m moving on, but I’ll do so carrying the light you’ve given me

Dear SMWC members, leaders, and friends,

I’m writing to let you know that I will be leaving the HCHR organizer position in mid August. My partner, who is a writer, was accepted to an MFA program and she, our many cats, and I are shipping off to the San Francisco Bay Area to follow the call. Deciding to leave Maine was a very difficult decision for me because my partnership and SMWC have quickly become the two most important pieces of my life. I’m so grateful for my time with SMWC and I’d like to leave you with some reflections I have about this wild work we do.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As I see it, our campaign for healthcare justice is all about power. Each of us has seen and felt the ways that power is sourced from money. Every day more wealth is created from our healthcare needs, so that the sicker and poorer we become as a people, the richer they become as a private, privileged class. I’ve imagined the healthcare system as an oppressive system not so dissimilar from the dozens of interconnected oppressive systems that steal from and harm our people. As poor and working class people, we can’t hope to fight their fire with fire. We can’t transform everything that’s so wrong with this world through transactional means. So we build power in our own way.

There is a mass of people in this state (country, world) who have no money to spare for us, but who hold within themselves deep untapped wells of power. We draw from these wells when we tell each other our healthcare stories, when we march, rally, and clap together, when we listen to each other and resonate with each others’ experiences of oppression. It’s probably no coincidence that there are sometimes tears involved. With every connection I’ve made on this campaign, I’ve tried to steal a few drops from that neglected well of energy and carry it back to our shared pool. This is the pool we need to pull from in order to put out the fires.

In nurturing and facilitating the connections between SMWC members, I’ve come to hold many powerful and personally significant relationships with you all. Now, leaving far too early, it’s like ripping off a bandaid that covers my heart. It’s these same relationships which have driven me to do well at this job, because the search for new connections speaks to a deeply rooted desire within myself to change the unjust conditions that my loved ones and I have faced, and to finally feel powerful amongst others in a world that works so ruthlessly to make us feel helpless and weak. I didn’t expect to fall so deeply in love with this organization, and it makes me think back on our working definition of transformative organizing – about how organizing changes those who commit themselves to the work.

The chaos of the statehouse, the parties, and the national and local media has few new lessons to teach us. Our people stand where they’ve always stood, and it’s up to us to transcend the norms and embrace a longterm vision for social justice. We can bend narratives, we can empower the disaffected and alienated, and we can absolutely make universal healthcare a winning issue in this state. As we continue to build our base we continue to build up our movement muscle, and it won’t be long before common people are too mighty to ignore.  If we do it right and hold to our principles, there’s nothing this movement can’t change.

I want to express my gratitude again to the leaders of the Southern Maine Workers’ Center for investing so much leadership development in me. It feels impossible to quantify all the ways that you guys have impacted and shaped me. In time, I’m certain I will look back at this year as one of the most important of my life. Rather than feel guilty about taking so much leadership from SMWC, I’d like to feel happy in the knowledge that this is what SMWC does. I know that someone is going to replace me and that person is going to be empowered in similarly important ways. Our theory of change comes from the grassroots, from the “trans-local.” Please know that wherever I land in the future, I will always work to contribute to our interconnected and shared movement for essential human rights. I will do so with the knowledge I’ve gained from you and in thinking back on the many powerful experiences I’ve shared with you. I’ll do so carrying the light you’ve given me.

Fight, Fight, Fight, Healthcare is a Human Right!

-Ronald Flannery

HCHR Organizer

PS. We’re looking for someone who loves Maine, social movements, and supporting grassroots leaders to fill my position. Is that person you? Learn more about the position here. Please share it with people you think could be a good match!

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.

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-NoonHealth Care is a Human Right Meeting68 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. 


Health Care is a Human Right Committee Statement & Call to Action on DHHS Proposed MaineCare Rule Change

We at the Southern Maine Workers’ Center (SMWC) are fighting for a universal, publicly-funded health care system that honors our human rights. The protection and expansion of existing public health care programs are important reform measures that also grant us platforms to demand the system we truly need. Right now, the Maine Department of Health & Human Services is attacking our state’s version of Medicaid (known as MaineCare) by seeking what’s called a Section 1115 waiver, which would result in rule changes for people on MaineCare.

Proposed changes for abled-bodied adultsinclude:         Proposed changes for all MaineCare recipients include:

 Work or volunteer requirements                                                               Copayments for inappropriate  Emergency Department use

 Monthly premiums                                                                                       Allowing providers to charge patients for missed appointments

                                                                                                                             A $5,000 asset test

                                                                                                                              Elimination of retroactive coverage

                                                                                                                             Eliminating ability of hospitals to presume someone’s eligibility

In its application, DHHS expresses a desire to move away from MaineCare as an entitlement program  and promote cost-conscious consumption of health care resources.  The Department’s explicit aim is to make people’s experiences of MaineCare more like that of the private insurance market. This is the opposite direction of what Maine people want. Organizations collecting signatures on election day in support of a ballot initiative to expand MaineCare experienced overwhelming support from voters across the political spectrum for MORE access, not less. As stated  in SMWC’s  recently released report, Enough for All: A People’s Report on Health Care, a survey of more than 1,300 state residents found that 96% believe health care is a human right and 83% support the idea of a universal, public system.[1] It is clear that people in Maine are increasingly dissatisfied with the pitfalls of profit-driven, private industry. Public programs”like Medicaid and Medicare”are some of the only things that work in this broken system. We are prepared to defend health care as a public good until it is granted as such to every resident.We are also troubled by the disparaging underlying assumptions about low income Mainers that are conveyed through much of DHHS’ language. They highlight personal responsibility and wanting to educate MaineCare patients about their impact on taxpayers, thereby mischaracterizing poor people as irresponsible and entitled. The realities of ordinary people navigating Maine’s health care landscape tell a different story.

Nearly a quarter of Maine people with health insurance are MaineCare recipients[2]. 45% of Mainers live in what is called a health professional shortage area,  and many face providers unwilling to accept MaineCare[3]. This means hospital emergency departments often become a last resort for treatment of non-life threatening injuries and illnesses. In a largely rural state with limited public transportation infrastructure even in its largest cities, missing appointments is often an unavoidable reality for patients without access to individual vehicles, or those with limited mobility. Workers in the service industries often experience unpredictable scheduling changes, forcing them to choose between making a doctor’s appointment or missing out on wages. People understandably need help navigating the red tape of applying for MaineCare, something that hospital and family planning clinic staff have been able to assist with, and practices that would be curtailed by the proposed changes.

These complications require systemic solutions. The answer is not to incentivize  providers to accept MaineCare through enforcing burdensome financial penalties on patients. Nor to discourage low income workers from saving what little money they can by forcing them to undergo an asset test to remain eligible for health care. Poor and working people in Maine already face enormous barriers getting quality, comprehensive health care. In SMWC’s survey, 71% of people felt that their human right to health care is not currently protected. The proposed changes would further raise the barriers people face, which would deny people even more essential treatments and medicines. This is terrible healthcare policy and deeply immoral. In fact, none of these proposals are intended to improve healthcare in Maine: they are driven by a punitive ideology that blames poor people for structural poverty rather than recognizing it is our economy and public policies that impoverish entire communities and fail to meet our fundamental human needs.” For these reasons, the Health Care is a Human Right Committee of the Southern Maine Workers’ Center opposes the above rule changes, and we encourage our members and supporters to speak out against them by:

  • Attending one of the public hearings in Portland or Augusta in person
  • Participating remotely in the hearings via conference call line, or
  • Submitting written comments via email to Policy.DHHS@maine.gov

If you have questions, contact Cait Vaughan at 603-897-9676.

Hearing 1:

Portland Public Hearing Date: May 17, 2017 Time: 9:00AM Location: Cross Insurance Arena 45 Spring Street Portland, Maine 04101 Conference Line: 1-877-455-0244 Passcode: 7319892834

Hearing 2:

Augusta Public Hearing Date: May 18, 2017 Time: 9:00 AM Location: Augusta Civic Center 76 Community Drive Augusta, Maine 04330 Conference Line: 1-877-455-0244 Passcode: 7319892834

For more information:

Link to abbreviated public notice: http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/oms/documents/1115_MaineCare_Abbreviated-Notice.pdf

(You can participate in the public hearings by calling in on a conference line; the conference number and passcode are available in this document)

Link to full-length public notice by DHSS: http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/oms/documents/1115_MaineCare_Full_Notice.pdf

Link to DHHS waiver application:  http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/oms/documents/Draft_MaineCare_1115_application.pdf

[1] Southern Maine Workers’ Center, Enough for All: A People’s Report on Health Care, 2017

[2] Data Source: US Census Bureau, American Community Survey. 2011-15. Source geography: Tract; US Census Bureau, Small Area Health Insurance Estimates. 2014.

[3] Data Source: US Department of Health Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Health Resources and Services Administration. April 2016.


People’s Forum on Health Care



Rejecting Republican Health Care Bill, Southern Maine Workers’ Center to hold People’s Forum on Health Care


For Immediate Release
Southern Maine Workers’ Center
Contact: Ronald Flannery

Portland, ME: On the evening of Monday, March 27th, the Southern Maine Workers’ Center along with Maine AllCare and the Maine State Nurses Association will hold a People’s Forum on Health Care, highlighting the voices of Mainers impacted by the health care crisis. The forum will be attended by Maine State legislators, including senator Ben Chipman and representatives Rachel Talbot Ross and Ben Collings.

The Maine Health Care is a Human Right Coalition, led by the Southern Maine Workers’ Center, Maine AllCare and the Maine State Nurses Association, advocates for universal, publicly funded health care. The flawed Affordable Care Act left too many people without access to care, and prioritized insurance company profits. But efforts in Washington to dismantle the Affordable Care Act will leave millions more without access to health insurance.

Peggy Marchand is a member of the Workers’ Center, and will attend the forum. The republican bill will be a disaster. 24 million people will lose health care coverage, particularly rural and elderly people, which will hit Maine hard. This bill amounts to a massive transfer of wealth to the richest people in the world, and it will cause unnecessary death and hardship.

In Augusta, the Governor has proposed a state budget that will eliminate 20,000 additional people from MaineCare. These attacks on our access to health care are unacceptable. People in Maine want more health care, not less.

The People’s Forum on Health Care will feature testimony from individuals directly impacted by the health care crisis, and highlight the solution of universal, publicly funded care. Samaa Abdurraqib, a member of the Workers’ Center explains, when we spotlight stories of our experiences with the US healthcare system, we learn the truth about how the healthcare actually works in this state and in this country. These individual stories tell us the big story of healthcare delivery in the US, the flaws, the gaps, and the inadequacies.

Ronald Flannery is an organizer for the Health Care is a Human Right campaign. For the last four years, we’ve been talking to people all across the state, and 94% of the people we surveyed believe healthcare is a human right. 80% percent support the idea of a universal, publicly funded health care system. It’s time politicians fight for what the people want.

The Southern Maine Workers’ Center will release a report later this spring detailing their survey findings, and outlining a path towards universal health care in Maine.


Our Invitation to Senator Susan Collins

On Saturday February 18th the Maine Health Care is a Human Right Coalition held a powerful rally, attended by more than 200 people, at the Monument Square with a march to Senator Collin’s office. We left her a loaf of bread with this invitation to join us at the upcoming People’s Forum on Health Care.

To: The Honorable Senator Susan Collins

From: The Health Care Is a Human Right Coalition

Date: February 18, 2017

Members of Southern Maine Workers’ Center, Maine AllCare, and Maine State Nurses Association deliver a loaf of bread and our invitation to Senator Susan Collins’ Portland office.

Like you, Senator Collins, we have been thinking about health care for quite some time now. Over 3 years ago, we started asking fellow Mainers about their experiences with and without health care and health insurance.As we listened, we recorded their stories. We also asked them what we thought was a particularly important question: Do you think health care is a human right? Their answer to that question was a resounding YES! 94% of the hundreds of folks we talked to believe that the right to health care belongs to each and every one of us simply because we are human.

We believe that the Affordable Care Act was an important, but flawed start. As often happens, politics got in the way of providing what people really want and so badly need. For many of us, failures of the Affordable Care Act and news from Congress about its repeal and replacement continue to make us feel like we have to grovel for legislative crumbs when we are hungry for universal health care, delivered in a system that is just and extends to all.

We are emphatic: The design of any new system or replacement must recognize that health care is neither a privilege reserved for only those who can afford it, nor a commodity to be bought and sold for profit. Access to high quality affordable health care must extend to all.

Furthermore, a jOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAust system of health care must reflect the following basic human rights principles:

Equity- Everyone puts in what they can and gets what they need. People have different means and resources that impact their ability to pay. Some people will be sicker and some people will be healthier. High deductibles and health care savings accounts do not adequately address equity.

Accountability- Any health care system must answer to the people. The provision of health care must not only be responsible to the recipients of that care, but also is obligated to the rest of us.

Transparency- We should all know how our health care system is managed and run. Providers are responsible for offering clear and complete information in a manner that patients and their families and advocates can understand.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Universality- Health care must be afforded to everyone, without exception. Our health care system must include all…every single one of us. In the United States of America, we know there is enough for all.

Participation- We should all be able to participate in decisions about our personal health care to the highest degree possible. Accessing and practicing preventive care is one example of how our participation not only supports our health, but makes all of America stronger.

We are polite, Senator Collins, but we are also resolved. We left a beautiful loaf of bread for you at your Portland office. Why bread? Bread is a universal symbol of plenty and generosity, and an ancient symbol of life itself. The bread serves as a reminder: We, your constituents, are hungry for health care, not health insurance. We are concerned for our lives. Our voices and our thinking are strong. Please come listen and hear us. To do so, we invite you to our first:

People’s Forum on Health Care

Portland, Maine

March 27th at 6 PM. The location TBA

Sponsored by

The Health Care is a Human Right Coalition

Becoming Unstoppable: Addressing Classism in the World & in our Movement

The Southern Maine Workers’ Center is an organization building a grassroots movement for human rights. We approach our work with the fundamental belief that working class and poor people “employed or not “know how the American economy works, because it works on top of them.  In order to create a more just economy we know that the most effective solutions come from the collective imagining, resistance, and love of people at the bottom. We must look to leadership of those who struggle the most under our current system.

As we organize for human rights and a just economy, we encounter first-hand the ways that racism, classism, and all systems of oppression place roadblocks on our path to unity and liberation. Our membership has a diversity of class experiences, and classism shows up in our membership and in our programming, just as it does in the broader movement. Failing to address classism in our organizing weakens our relationships with each other and our ability to address the institutional forces that keep us divided in an unequal system.

This system is reinforced when politicians like Donald Trump and our own governor Paul LePage use powerful, fear-based stories to shift blame for our insecurity and hardship away from failed economic policies and onto black people, people of color, and immigrants. We need to have clear messages and strategy to counter these stories and to create organizations that can build leadership and power across our differences, including across our experiences of race and class.

In 2014, the Workers’ Center published a list of anti-racist commitments, recognizing the need to state publicly that racial justice is central to our vision of liberation. We know that we cannot address classism without simultaneously working to understand and dismantle racism on every level. We now also recognize a need to articulate our understanding of classism and what commitments we make as an organization to address it. 


In Maine, we see reflections of a crisis that is global in scope. Housing costs are skyrocketing and jobs are becoming more concentrated in low-paying sectors with few benefits. The same number of children go without healthcare as did before the Affordable Care Act. In the midst of an opioid epidemic, LePage has ensured that recovery centers around the state will remain underfunded and subject to closure, that beds will not be available to those in desperate need. Between 2000 and 2010, the income of Maine’s richest 20% of households grew by over 6%, while the poorest fifth of households experienced no income growth. The economy helps the rich get richer, while our communities are left behind as industries die out or move, our environment is poisoned, our infrastructure is neglected. Everyday people in Maine are struggling to have their basic human rights met.

Although most people are being negatively impacted by the current system, we’re not all impacted by the system in the same way. LePage’s rhetoric and policies criminalize, target and deny rights to black people and people of color. Racism in this country has always been a highly effective bait and switch for politicians like LePage and Trump, who tell blatantly racist lies about who is to blame for the drug crisis or the economic crisis, openly call for racial profiling, and make it more dangerous for black people and people of color to exist. That includes LePage stating that the enemy right now¦ are people of color. Statements like these are violent, and are intended to distract us from making demands that can address the root causes of racism and economic oppression.

Meanwhile, people who are most directly impacted by economic injustice are too often alienated from the movements that are working to bring about change. We see this happening in our organizing when white people with economic privilege perpetuate the idea that poor and working class white people are more racist or are misinformed about important issues. People with class privilege also sometimes fail to recognize the ways their experiences and perspectives dominate movement spaces. Classism alienates those who should be at the centers of our organizations and makes our movements less powerful.

The systems that we’re living under thrive by appearing inevitable but we know that they are not. It is our responsibility to organize a broad base of people for economic and racial justice because the power behind our unity is world changing and unstoppable. But in order to harness this power, we need to make room for our very real differences, and prioritize solutions that are generated by people who are most impacted by racism and classism. Together, we hold the solutions and the knowledge that can bring forth a better world.


Our vision for change is rooted in human rights. We believe that there are certain things ”like healthcare, housing, education, a clean environment, and the ability to work with dignity”that every human being should be guaranteed. The current economic crisis is based in depriving us of our human rights, for the profit and benefit of the few. The solution should be built on the principles of equity and universality: equity meaning everyone puts in what they can, and gets what they need; universality meaning everyone in, nobody out.

In our work to guarantee human rights, we recognize that it’s not just institutions that are the problem”our own stories about our worth and the worth of others can get in the way of our work for social change. In order to build powerful movements for human rights, we must make space in our organizing to share the ways that classism impacts our lives on all levels, from the systemic to the personal.

In order to build a powerful movement to challenge these systems, and in order to address classism in our movements and organization, we make the following commitments.


  • We commit to prioritizing the voices and leadership of our members who identify as poor, working class, or economically oppressed.
  • We reaffirm our anti-racist commitments, recognizing that classism is not a separate issue, and that our strategy to end economic oppression must involve lifting up the leadership and priorities of black people and people of color in our organization and our communities.
  • We commit to talking openly about all of our identities, experiences and differences, in the spirit of building unity and solidarity. Our movement should provide space where we can all reflect on our own experiences and learn from each other. While doing this, we recognize that white middle class experiences are considered normal and default in the dominant culture, and we’ll therefore work to center the perspectives and analyses of poor and working class people.
  • We commit to educating ourselves and developing tools to address classism in our organization. We commit to developing tools and shared language to help us name and understand our own class experiences.
  • We commit to speaking from our own experience, and to not generalize or appropriate the experiences of others.
  • We commit to making our organization as accessible as possible”providing rides, child care, food, and other support identified by our members.
  • We will organize people from a diversity of class backgrounds into a movement for economic justice and collective liberation.