September 2, 2013

Maine workers celebrated at annual Labor Day breakfast

By Gillian Graham
Staff Writer

PORTLAND – The state’s newest labor union was celebrated Monday during the Southern Maine Labor Council’s annual Labor Day breakfast at the Irish Heritage Center.

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Some of the 150 people at the Southern Maine Labor Council's Labor Day Breakfast sing "Solidarity Forever" at the Maine Irish Heritage Center in Portland on Monday, September 2, 2013. They are, from left, Ned McCann of Portland, Peter Kellman of North Berwick, Sarah Bigney, AFLCIO staff member from Hallowell, and Charles Scontras of Cape Elizabeth.

Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

Rock Alley, president of the new Maine Lobstermen’s Union, said he was overwhelmed by the support lobster fisherman across the state have received as they pushed forward their grassroots effort to organize.

“It just blew my mind away. It was incredible to see what was available for support for lobster fishermen,” Alley told the 150 workers, labor leaders and elected officials at the breakfast.

Doug Born, president of the Southern Maine Labor Council, said every Labor Day is “a good excuse to get together with our fellow union brethren and enjoy solidarity.” This Labor Day had even more reason to celebrate because of the new Lobstermen’s Union, he said.

“In this day and age, it’s highly unusual (to see a new union), especially with such a historically independent group,” he said. “It’s a real treat that we have a new union in Maine. The collective voice is a stronger voice.”

Congressman Michael Michaud, who also is running for governor, said he is happy to see the collaborative effort that went into forming the Maine Lobstermen’s Union. The collective voice of the union will allow lobstermen to fight in Augusta for issues that are important to them, he said.

Senate Democratic Leader Troy Jackson of Allagash said that while he has never been a union member, he understands “the importance of allowing people to organize and fight for what’s important to them.”

Michaud, who received several standing ovations from a largely friendly crowd, said Maine has a strong tradition of dedicated workers who help each other through difficult times.

“Unions are not just fighting for members, but for working people and businesses,” Michaud said.

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