AUGUSTA — With cowbells, chants and signs, scores of state employees converged on Capitol Park in front of the State House Monday to call on state legislators to end their budget impasse and allow them to go back to work.

“The focus of today is to get our message heard,” Ramona Welton, president of the Maine State Employees Union, said Monday. “We want to let the Senate and the House know that we want to return to work. We want them to pass a responsible compromise budget and get back to work.”

More than 150 union members and supporters, clad in purple shirts, marched past the Blaine House, the governor’s residence, before gathering in the Hall of Flags at the State House, accompanied by honks and waves from drivers who were stopped in traffic.

Attorney General Janet Mills joined the union marchers.

“There’s no hill to die on. This is a state budget,” Mills said before they left Capitol Park. “It’s critical to all of us. Today I am proud not just to be the attorney general and a constitutional officer, but a state employee.”

For the second day in a row, Welton tried to deliver a class-action grievance to the office of Gov. Paul LePage over the failure of the governor to give state employees 10 days advance notice of a layoff, as the union’s collective bargaining agreement requires.


“People were in there,” Welton said. “We could see them moving around, but no one came to the door.”

Welton said the state’s partial shutdown – all but essential state services have come to a halt – was not a surprise, and notice could have been given. In the past, when the state has laid off employees in federally funded positions because of the shutdown of the federal government, they were given notice, she said.

“LePage had the authority when he declared a civil emergency to require emergency workers to work,” she said. “There’s no guarantee of pay. So we’re filing this grievance to make our workers whole. This is for the maintenance of pay and benefits under our contract.”

Meanwhile, LePage announced Monday that he is allowing state employees to take administrative leave with pay Monday. LePage is also providing state workers who have been designated emergency personnel with compensatory time off for the hours they worked Monday.

The rally drew workers from all over the state.

Jaime Edwards, of Thomaston, a case manager for adults with intellectual disabilities based in Rockland, said she wants to go back to work.


If any of the people whose cases she manages need services, they are not getting them, Edwards said.

Edwards’ sister, Tammi Morrison, is a caseworker for Child Protective Services in Augusta.

Both say that only emergency services are being offered while state offices are closed – if a client needs surgery, for instance, that requires a caseworker’s consent.

Their best hope is that elected state officials enact a spending plan for the next two years that will allow them to go back to work this week.

Marchers converged in the Hall of Flags and moved up one floor to stand and chant in the hallway connecting the legislative chambers.

Dave and Deb Doreau drove down from Waterville Monday to join them. Dave Doreau, now retired, was an adjunct faculty member at Kennbec Valley Community College, and he responded to a call from his union to take part Monday.


Both Doreaus voted to impose a 3 percent tax on incomes of more than $200,000 to pay for education in a statewide referendum, and the passage of that tax has been one of the barriers to reaching an accord on the state budget.

In the latest compromise, Democrats have agreed to repeal the tax on the promise of $162 million being directed to public education.

“I thought that was the law,” Dave Doreau said. “I celebrated it.”

“As voters, are we being punished, if they didn’t like the way we voted?” Deb Doreau said.

The agreement still carries a 1.5 percent increase in the state lodging tax, a provision that may prompt a veto by LePage.

Jane Gilbert, who retired as deputy commissioner of the state Department of Labor eight years ago, said the shutdown is “stupid.”


“It’s not right and it’s not necessary,” Gilbert said. “It shows a huge disrespect to the private and public sector.”

The Maine Center for Economic Policy estimated an impact of $2.5 million each day Maine state government is shut down. State government employs nearly 12,000 people across Maine.

Jessica Lowell can be contacted at 621-5632 or at:

Twitter: JLowellKJ

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