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Patrick Carleton is vice president of the Maine AFL-CIO.
The celebration of Maine workers should continue for far longer than just a three-day weekend. Maine has over 160 local labor unions that represent over 40,000 working men and women and retirees across the state. All Maine workers — unionized or not — deserve recognition every day of the year.
Maine has a long, robust history of collective bargaining — and of electing leaders to office who value the rights of workers. These essential workers — lobstermen, loggers, papermakers, machinists, postal workers, ship builders, and educators — are the backbone of our economy, which is why the AFL-CIO has been fighting to improve their lives, their safety conditions, and their benefits for decades.
And we have made real progress over the years, but right now, in Maine, workers are under attack.
When Donald Trump ran in 2016, he told workers: “I am your voice.” But, as president, he has turned his back on us — diminishing our right to good-paying jobs and benefits, and relentlessly working to strip away our health care, safety, and collective bargaining rights. To put it simply, he’s put us at risk during an unprecedented global pandemic that has killed more than 180,000 Americans, including a countless number of frontline workers.
What has Trump been focused on instead? Doling out massive tax breaks and billion-dollar bailouts to his buddies from Mar-a-Lago and overseas corporations.
Remember the enhanced unemployment benefits workers were supposed to have to get them through these times? Well, the virus is still here, but the benefits aren’t — because instead of supporting Americans, Trump decided to leave workers like us out to dry, while the Senate, including Republicans like Susan Collins, went on recess.
Thankfully, we have another choice in November: Joe Biden, who has spent this pandemic standing up for workers — including here in Maine. When IAM Local S6 went on strike to protect and preserve their rights, Biden had their backs. During negotiations, Biden explained that he and Bath’s workers share the belief that, “A job is about a lot more than a paycheck. It’s about dignity.”
This is the kind of fight Biden has been waging since he first entered politics, because he grew up in a working-class family in Scranton, Pennsylvania, which taught him that unions built the middle-class and that the middle-class is the backbone of America.
Biden will continue to be one of labor’s strongest allies as president as he implements his Build Back Better Plan, which won’t only empower us to escape Trump’s recession but will put us on the path to creating a stronger, fairer economy than we’ve ever had.
Instead of tearing unions down like Trump, Biden will help build them back up and protect our rights to organize and collectively bargain. He will include in his economic recovery plan the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, which encourages organizing and penalizes employers who interfere with union elections. He’ll fight for a $15 an hour federal minimum wage, which would be more than a 30 percent raise for Maine’s lowest paid workers, paid sick leave, and two weeks of paid family and medical leave. He’ll revitalize American manufacturing, expand access to health care to millions of Americans, and make it easier for aging relatives and loved ones with disabilities to have quality care.
And Biden won’t raise taxes on anyone making under $400,000. Instead, he’ll pay for his plans by making the richest Americans and biggest corporations pay their fair share — like the rest of us have been doing for generations.
A lot of things in life are complicated, but this is simple: As working families struggle to stay afloat in Trump’s America, Joe Biden will provide the leadership and voice for workers that we need in the White House.
But first, he needs to win, which means you need to vote. So, make sure you’re registered and encourage your family and friends to do the same. Cast your ballot on Nov. 3, or, if you’re voting absentee, make sure your ballot gets delivered by Nov. 3.
Because this is the most important election of our lives — and winning it will be hard work. But hard work is what we do here in Maine. And together, we can make sure Biden is our 46th president.