April 25, 2013

Maine lawmakers kill right-to-work, union dues bills

Glenn Adams / The Associated Press

AUGUSTA — A right-to-work bill and a companion measure barring public employers from deducting fees in lieu of union dues from workers' checks were both killed Thursday by the Legislature, whose majority Democrats regarded both as anti-union.

The final blow came in the Senate, which voted both measures down by 21-13 tallies.

The right-to-work bill would have made it illegal for a private employer to require employees to join a labor organization or pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment. The second bill was triggered by a dispute over whether state government should be allowed to continue deducting fees from paychecks of workers who choose not to be members of the state workers' union.

"Right to work was a bad idea in 1948 when Maine voters rejected it by a 2 to 1 margin, and it's still a bad idea 60 years later," Sen. John Patrick, D-Rumford, said in a statement. "I want a Maine that's progressive not regressive – a Maine that stands up for its workers."

Patrick, the Senate chair of the Committee on Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development, referred to a 1948 referendum in which voters turned down a pair of right-to-work proposals. Since then, similar bills have been repeatedly rejected by Maine legislatures. Opponents cited reports showing workers in states with right-to-work laws make less money than those in other states.

"Right to work for less is bad policy and I'm glad we didn't waste much time on it," said Assistant Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson, D-Allagash.

House GOP Leader Kenneth Fredette of Newport said the two bills would have done more than perhaps any other legislation to bring jobs to Maine by making the state more attractive to businesses.

"(Thursday's) result was not a big surprise, but the important thing is that we bring this debate to the public and make the case that there is an alternative," said Rep. Lawrence Lockman, R-Amherst, sponsor of both bills.

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