Labor Union Discord Reaches New England
By John Gramlich, Staff Writer
The state's new Republican governor, Paul LePage, is asking the GOP majority in the Legislature to raise the retirement age for some state workers from 62 to 65 while forcing public employees to pay more for their benefits. LePage also wants to freeze and then cap cost-of-living adjustments for retirees.
Just as in Wisconsin, where protesters have filled the Capitol for weeks as Republicans try to curtail collective bargaining rights for unions, LePage's plan is deeply unpopular among Maine's state workers, who rallied by the hundreds at the capitol in Augusta on Thursday (March 3) to oppose it.
"Although far from the dramatic scenes playing out in Wisconsin and other states," the Bangor Daily News reported , "Thursday's events in the Maine State House echoed with the themes heard nationwide as policy makers attempt to deal with shortfalls in their budgets and pensions."
Public employees in Maine, like those in Wisconsin, believe they are being singled out by Republican political leaders who have long opposed labor unions. But Republicans say the unions are trying to undo an election that resulted in clear GOP majorities - nowhere more so than Maine and Wisconsin.
"We elected a new governor. We elected a new majority in the Maine House and Maine Senate," one LePage supporter said during Thursday's rally. "The people of Maine said very clearly that we need a change of course."