BRISTOL, Maine — Lincoln County Democrats recognized state Labor Commissioner Laura Fortman’s efforts on behalf of Maine workers on Friday during an award ceremony named for the first woman to hold a cabinet seat in a presidential administration.
More than 100 people attended a dinner in Bristol on Friday evening honoring Fortman, who is the eighth recipient of the Lincoln County Democratic Committee’s biannual Frances Perkins Award.
The award’s namesake, Frances Perkins, was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s longtime labor secretary during the Great Depression and is credited with shaping some of the key social reforms of the New Deal era.
Fortman, who lives in Nobleboro, has served as Maine’s labor commissioner since 2003, a time of considerable change and turmoil in Maine’s labor market. Before joining the Baldacci administration, Fortman was executive director of the Maine Women’s Lobby and executive director of the Sexual Assault Crisis and Support Center in Maine.
Fortman was credited for her “unwavering and unassuming championship of the needs of the men and women of Maine” and for “advocating for fair and safe working conditions in Maine workplaces and greater opportunities for Maine workers.”
Among the accomplishments cited by the Democratic committee, Fortman reorganized the Department of Labor, improved job training and other programs for unemployed workers and launched the Maine Job Bank.
“To be in Lincoln County where Frances Perkins had her roots is especially powerful to me,” Fortman told the audience.
Although a Massachusetts native, Perkins spent a considerable amount of time throughout her life in a family home in Newcastle, which is now the Frances Perkins Center.
As labor secretary under FDR, Perkins played a major role in many historic reforms still in place today.
Perkins is described as a key architect of the Social Security system and is credited with championing the Federal Labor Standards Act, which created a minimum wage and overtime, established the 40-hour work week and banned oppressive child labor.