AUGUSTA — We’re about to elect our next U.S. senator, and Shenna Bellows is the better candidate for Maine’s working people than the incumbent.

Shenna, a Democrat, is a champion for a higher minimum wage and equal pay for equal work. Her economic plan makes big investments in renewable energy to create jobs now and build a solid future for our state.

She is committed to universal broadband Internet and cellphone access all over Maine to help entrepreneurs succeed, especially in rural areas that are too often ignored today. Just as importantly, she’s going to fight to increase Social Security benefits by making our tax base fairer so working people who earn a decent retirement don’t have to worry about the future.

These are big goals, and everyone who cares about Maine’s future should vote for someone who thinks this big. Right now we’re seeing too many mill closures, too many businesses hurt by a lack of good infrastructure and too many Mainers working two or three jobs without getting by. We’re also seeing Shenna tackle these important issues head on. That’s why my union, United Association Local 716 and the Maine State Building & Construction Trades Council, has endorsed her alongside many other unions around the state.

What we’re not seeing is a strong response from Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, who seems content to keep working at the margins. For too long, Sen. Collins has been offering Band-Aids instead of long-term solutions. Her record over the past six years has not been what we’d expect from a real leader.

Her anti-labor history makes me worry about how she’ll vote if Republicans take control of the Senate this year. Just four years ago, she led the fight against an effort to score federal contractors based on their labor practices, claiming without evidence that it would hurt small businesses.

That same year, she joined her Washington Republican colleagues to filibuster a nominee to the National Labor Relations Board, which oversees labor-management disputes and referees union elections. Last year she voted against the confirmation of Thomas Perez, who has served well as labor secretary despite her opposition – and against three more National Labor Relations Board nominees for good measure.

She also voted in 2010 against public safety workers being allowed to collectively bargain over hours, wages and working conditions, even though the bill prevented them from going on strike. The next year, she voted to prevent Transportation Security Administration employees from collectively bargaining over the same issues. She has not advocated the rights of working people to bargain fairly, and her silence on the issues at stake in the FairPoint negotiations has not been surprising.

Sen. Collins seems to go out of her way to play it safe and vote with her party far too often when it counts, and not just on labor issues. Instead of standing up to the tea party, she voted in 2010 to extend tax cuts even for the very highest end of the income scale, saying any other option would hurt small businesses – her favorite excuse for a vote she knows won’t be popular on the merits.

Just a few months ago, she voted against a minimum-wage increase to $10.10 an hour by insisting that it would cost 500,000 jobs and – you guessed it – hurt small businesses. There’s no real-world evidence to support those claims. The experts whose work was used to establish that 500,000 figure say their research was misused and the figure is inaccurate. States with higher minimum wages than Maine’s have seen greater job growth than we have.

A vote for Shenna is a vote for working families. She’s run her entire campaign on helping working people and building a solid economic future here in Maine. She believes the federal government should be in the business of helping working people, creating new jobs and new economic possibilities, and extending retirement security for those who paid a lifetime into the system.

The people of our state have worked hard for what we have. We’ve helped build profitable companies and made sacrifices to help our families. We deserve a bright economic future. Shenna offers that.

I’m supporting her this year, and so are a lot of working people all over Maine. I hope you join us.