BANGOR, Maine — Maine union groups on Monday urged members of the state’s congressional delegation to help keep jobs in the United States by supporting a bill that is pending in Congress.
During a demonstration outside the Margaret Chase Smith Federal Building, the union members stressed the importance of manufactured goods from Maine. Some of them told their own stories of jobs lost abroad.
“We’re from the paper industry and we’ve seen jobs blasted out of the state,” said Dan Lawson of the United Steelworkers of America.
Lawson and other members of the United Steelworkers were joined by representatives of the Maine People’s Alliance and the Maine AFL-CIO, the union group that organized the event.
After staging the demonstration outside the federal building on Harlow Street, they delivered baskets of Maine-made products to the offices of Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins in support of the Bring Jobs Home Act, a bill introduced in both houses of Congress that would give tax incentives to businesses that keep jobs in America and deny tax cuts to those that send jobs overseas.
They later delivered goods to U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud’s office on State Street.
“We just wanted to tell the senators and representative that manufacturing is an important part of the Maine economy,” said Sarah Bigney of the Maine AFL-CIO.
Sneakers from New Balance in Norridgewock, hot dog buns from J.J. Nissen in Biddeford and cans of baked beans from B&M in Portland were among the goods delivered to each lawmaker’s office. Bigney said the unions’ appearance at Michaud’s office was well-received.
“They said he wanted to do more research and get back to us,” the Maine AFL-CIO spokeswoman said.
Workers at the senators’ offices took down names and listened to the union members’ stories, Bigney added.
Kevin Kelley, a spokesman for Collins, did not address her stance on the bill, but provided a statement regarding her support of U.S. manufacturing and introduction of the Stopping Overseas Subsidies Act.
“Especially in this weak economy, Maine manufacturers face many challenges, including from countries like China that unfairly manipulate their currency,” Kelley said. “Senator Collins believes it is critically important that we stand up for U.S. manufacturers that have been injured as a result of unfair trade practices.”
Snowe said she hopes the Bring Jobs Home Act “can be extensively debated on the floor of the U.S. Senate in the context of comprehensive tax reform so we can explore all the ways possible to ensure our businesses can be more competitive in a global marketplace.”
She added that “it is critical that Congress act to spur job creation and help unemployed Mainers and Americans get back to work.”
A spokesman for Michaud had no immediate comment on the bill.
Lawson of the United Steelworkers said he worked in a garment factory in Maine for three years until it closed in the late 1980s because of growing competition overseas.
“They shut the business down,” the union member said. “They couldn’t compete with Third World wages.”
Linda Fairbrother, also of the United Steelworkers, said she and her relatives have been affected by jobs sent to other countries. She said her sister was sent to Mexico so she could train auto workers who would replace her and others for lower wages and less safety and environmental protections.
“It takes them a day to make what she made in an hour,” Fairbrother said.
The Senate is expected to vote on the bill, S. 2884, after its July Fourth recess, and President Barack Obama already has urged lawmakers to support it as part of his five-point “to-do list,” according to The Washington Post.