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Maine GOP Freshman Revives "Right-to-Work" Legislation
01/28/2013   Reported By: Susan Sharon

Less than a year after a Republican-controlled Maine Legislature refused to advance so-called "right-to-work" legislation, a freshman Republican lawmaker is once again attempting to put Maine on the map as a "right-to-work" state. As Susan Sharon reports, the head of the AFL-CIO is already giving the two bills, sponsored by Rep. Lawrence Lockman, no chance of passing this session.

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Maine GOP Freshman Revives "Right-to-Work" Legisla
Originally Aired: 1/28/2013 5:30 PM

Republican Rep. Lawrence Lockman of Amherst acknowledges that his proposed legislation faces an uphill battle. This time, Democrats control the Maine Legislature. But Lockman says he wants to have a full debate about freedom of choice for working people since "right-to-work" legislation has never received a vote on the House and Senate floors.

He's introducing two right-to-work bills: He says one allows Mainers to "work at unionized private businesses without being forced to join or financially support a union as a condition of employment." The second bill offers paycheck protection to state employees who were forced under the previous administration to pay fees to the Maine State Employees Association.

"I think it's important to have this discussion, in view of what's happened in the last two years," Lockman says. "And, frankly, I do want to give Democrats in the Maine Legislature the opportunity to get on the right side of this issue and to get on the right side of history."

Lockman points out that just last year, Indiana and Michigan both passed right-to-work legislation, putting nearly half the states in that category. According to data from the U.S. Labor Department, right-to-work states tend to have slightly higher job growth than non right-to-work states. But they also tend to have lower wages. It's just not clear why.

Both sides use the data to bolster arguments for and against right-to-work legislation. But opponents also point out that collective bargaining agreements cannot require workers to join unions. And, says Assistant Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson, of Allagash, debating the facts around right-to-work will be an unnecessary distraction this session.

"You know, the committee's gonna have, I'm sure, a great big public hearing over it," he says. "And you know, that committee's got 200 bills, a lot of them are really good bills that we need to focus on, and this one that we don't need to. And so, any way you cut it, it's gonna waste the Legislature's time."

The language and details of Rep. Lockman's bill are still being drafted and have not been made public yet. And Lockman, who serves on the Labor Committee, says he is still trying to find co-sponsors, including a pair of Democrats, whom he declined to name.

He says one of the reasons his legislation may be ripe for consideration this year is because of the strike by bakery workers against the maker of Twinkies last year.

"You had the strike against Hostess, where the national union leadership basically crushed that company, and so I think we need have this discussion again right here in Maine," Lockman says.

Last year, legislation that would have allowed public employees to opt out of paying union dues even though they would still benefit from collective bargaining was indefinitely tabled by the Labor Committee. Matt Schlobohm of the Maine AFL-CIO says the prospects for right-to-work legislation to advance this session are bleak.

"Clearly, Rep. Lockman's bill is dead on arrival this time around," Schlobohm says. "And it's unfortunate that he wants to continue to attack Maine workers instead of focusing on rebuilding our economy, and focusing on the priorities that a lot of Maine people share."

Democratic Sen. John Patrick of Oxford, the co-chair of the Labor Committee, says he's worried the divisive legislation could affect relations on his committe, which he says, so far, have been good.


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