BREWER, Maine — The labor group Food AND Medicine and a group of community leaders on Monday announced the formation of the Eastern Maine Worker Rights Board.
The board’s mission is “to provide a community forum to legitimize workers’ voices and to help remedy workplace injustices,” Food AND Medicine said in a press release.
The board’s steering committee chose Martin Luther King Day to make the announcement in respect of King’s “lifelong dedicated work for the dignity of all people, including workers,” the press release said.
“When I think about what has happened to our economy in the past few years, I can’t help but think of how the people at the top of our economy — the folks who run banks, oil companies and the like — have made decisions that have wreaked havoc on families and their lives,” said Rep. Adam Goode, D-Bangor, a member of the board’s steering committee.
In 2009, Food AND Medicine said it conducted a poll in Bangor showing that 51 percent of employees felt that they would be fired for simply talking about unions. In the same poll, 40 percent of employees said they would like to form a union.
“It has been widely polled that nearly half of Maine workers would choose a union if they could, but that they fear firing for exercising this basic right,” said Bill Murphy, director of the Bureau of Labor Education at the University of Maine. “Such intimidation and reprisal is illegal, immoral and bad for our community.”
“The Worker Rights Board will support workers by both listening to and supporting workers who are organizing to better their work conditions. This might include meetings, hearings and the like,” Goode said.
In a statement, U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine, thanked Food AND Medicine for “always standing up for Maine’s workers.”
“We need organizations and leaders like these to continue to advocate for justice and shine a light on the need for us to always strive to do better,” Michaud said. “Whether it’s ensuring workplace safety or simply providing a voice to those that do not have one, this initiative will be a positive and constructive addition to our state and national dialogue.”