Allen meets laid-off workers at Brewer labor center

Posted Oct. 21, 2008, at 9:33 p.m.

BREWER, Maine — Fresh off his debate Monday night with Susan Collins in Presque Isle, Tom Allen met with a key part of his targeted constituency Tuesday when he made a stop to talk to laid-off union workers.

Allen, the Democratic 1st District congressman who hopes to win Collins’ U.S. Senate seat, met with about a dozen such workers at noon Tuesday at the Eastern Maine Labor Council in Brewer. The workers criticized free-trade agreements they blamed for the loss of their jobs and said they support Allen’s campaign.

Collins’ campaign, meanwhile, announced Monday the senator has been endorsed by the Business and Professional Women Political Action Committee.

“BPW-PAC recognizes her commitment to equity for all women in the workplace,” Deborah Frett, CEO of BPW-USA, said in a prepared statement. “She has demonstrated her support for pay equity, work-life effectiveness and equal rights, and we are confident that when she is re-elected to the U.S. Congress, working women and their families from Maine and across the nation will have a powerful advocate in Susan Collins.”

In Brewer, workers said Tuesday that by supporting President Bush’s economic policies, Collins has not been their advocate in Washington.

Jeff Feero, who lost his job in 2006 when Georgia-Pacific closed its operations in Old Town, said the kinds of jobs that have replaced his former mill job pay less and have fewer benefits, if they have them at all.

“There are jobs out there,” Feero said. “Unfortunately, you have to have four or five of them to get by.”

He also said he has been unhappy with third-party television ads that compare workers trying to unionize to mobsters. The ads suggest the proposed Employee Free Choice Act would eliminate workers’ rights to a private vote when deciding whether to join a union. Allen, who supports the bill, has said this is not the case.

“If you take away my freedom to be unemployed, it wouldn’t bother me,” Feero told Allen, eliciting laughter from others in the room. “I’d much rather be working than where we are right now.”

Steve Husson, a former DHL driver and special projects director for Food AND Medicine, said Tuesday that 19,300 manufacturing jobs have been eliminated in Maine since Bush took office in 2000.

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