While I understand that Maine DSA’s endorsement process takes time and important opportunities are sometimes missed until it is too late, I’m disappointed to see this has happened again. While the “Work Week” bills which will shortly be accepting testimony at the state level seem likely to face opposition from our “better than LePage” Governor, supporting such bills is important for socialists both because of the possibility of passage and as a way of demonstrating that we show up for our fellow workers. Hopefully this letter can serve to motivate members and allies to turn out in favor of these protections and also motivate members to develop a better process to allow our statewide chapter to support bills.
The previously mentioned Work Week bills are LD 513 “An Act Regarding Overtime Protections for Certain Maine Workers” and LD 1190 “An Act to Ensure a Fair Workweek by Requiring Notice of Work Schedules.” These bills, while obviously a compromise in the face of ever-present corporate pushback, would help pull our society back as it strays ever further from shortened work weeks.
LD 513 guarantees that more executive, administrative, and professional laborers such as those who work tirelessly to ensure the adequate functioning of shelters and community services are included in overtime protections. While these workers may not obviously fit the historical trope of the factory worker toiling away at a dangerous machine, administrative and professional work covers a large part of our workforce locally and will continue to do so as global capital reinforces the outsourcing of such classically-unionized jobs. Furthermore, as our state’s minimum wage falls ever-further behind the rising cost of living, the current cutoff for overtime protections for these administrative and professional workers similarly lags behind.
LD 1190 requires that employers with 250+ workers provide new employees with a good faith estimate of the employee’s expected minimum number of scheduled shifts per month and the days and hours of those shifts. It further requires that these employers provide two weeks’ prior notice of work schedule changes; shift changes with less notice than this require employees be compensated 1-4 hours of their standard pay depending on how much prior notice was given. While the 250-employee cutoff is regrettable and leaves most franchise employees out of its protections, this law goes a long way toward helping resolve the inhumane scheduling practices that are so common in food service and many other industries today.
As previously mentioned, both of these bills are rapidly coming up in committees and will be accepting testimony in the coming days. LD 513, the overtime bill, is already accepting written testimony and will be taking live testimony (in person or on Zoom) on March 30th at 1PM. LD 1190, the schedule change notice bill, is already accepting written testimony and will be taking live testimony (in person or on Zoom) on April 6th at 1PM. Both bills are being heard by the Labor and Housing Committee. As Maine DSA unfortunately is not organizing to turn out testimony for these bills, I would suggest those who are new to testifying or would like help crafting effective testimony reach out to the Maine Center for Economic Policy’s James Myall for assistance at email@example.com.
I hope to hear from readers at these hearing dates and hope Maine DSA can do a better job supporting what limited reform attempts are possible under our current system as they arise.