Statement by Ginette Rivard, Vice President of the Maine State Employees Association, Local 1989 of the Service Employees International Union, Press Conference to Release Analysis of Governor LePage’s Budget

Thank you.  I’m Ginette Rivard, Vice President of the Maine State Employees Association, Local 1989 of the Service Employees International Union.  Our union represents over 15,000 workers in Maine.

I’m here today because Maine people have a proud tradition of keeping their promises.  When Maine people give their word, they mean it.  

You’d think the same would go for the State of Maine.

The state made a promise to workers like Sam Sotirelis.  A 53-year-old plow truck driver from Washington County, Sam and his coworkers at the Maine D.O.T. keep our highways safe no matter how much snow, sleet and freezing rain Mother Nature throws at us.

Sam and other public workers throughout our state do their work at hourly wages that are lower than the private sector for the same work.

And no, you don’t need to take my word for it. It’s all documented in a report commissioned by the State of Maine and on file at the Maine Department of Administrative and Professional Services. Sam and others do their work with the expectation that the State of Maine will keep its promise of health and retirement security following their careers in public service.

Yet in his proposed two-year state budget, Gov. LePage has proposed breaking the state’s promise to Maine’s public workers and retired workers. The Governor proposes largely balancing the state budget on their backs. He proposes cutting their pensions and health care benefits by hundreds of millions of dollars to fund his over $204 million in tax breaks for Maine’s highest wage earners and other costly proposals. We think that’s wrong. It’s unfair.

For  those who haven’t been following his proposals, we’d like to share with you three facts:
First, Maine’s public workers and teachers have been diligently contributing 7.65 percent of every paycheck toward their retirement. In fact, workers contribute 58 percent of the cost of their pensions, which is more than the normal cost that the state contributes.

Yet the Governor wants the workers to pay 2 percent MORE to their retirement without increasing the benefit. At the same time, he wants the state to pay LESS toward their retirement. That’s not fair.

Second, for Maine’s public workers and teachers, their pension IS their retirement because they are mostly ineligible for Social Security benefits as public workers. Federal laws penalize them for the Social Security benefits that they have earned from previous work.

Finally, the average pension for a Maine retiree is around $19,000 a year. That’s a modest retirement. They worked hard for it. They earned it.

Starting Wednesday of this week, public workers and retired workers in Maine will tell the Appropriations Committee how the Governor’s proposed budget will impact their lives and their ability to live with dignity in their communities.

And on Thursday, we will be gathering outside the State House in support of Maine’s public servants and the retired workers who have made Maine such a special place to live, work, raise a family, and, yes, retire.

Please join us. Thank you.