Wednesday, 17 April 2019 20:21

Bill would give public employees the right to strike

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AUGUSTA - A bill that would give public workers, like teachers and municipal employees, the right to strike is creating a stir in the state capital.

Dozens of teachers held a rally outside the State House Wednesday in support of the bill.

They say having the option to go on strike would give them a greater voice in their everyday work and allow them to better stand up for their students.

"Leaving my classroom to have to protest would be the last thing I would ever want to do, particularly in special education," said Bethany Meehan-Poulin, a special education teacher who supports the measure. "But if it is the only way that I can protect the children who cannot speak for themselves because the world is simply not listening to them, we really need to have that right."

James Page, the chancellor of the University of Maine system, is one of a handful of people who spoke in opposition to the measure.

Page said if university employees went on strike, it could prevent students from completing their course work or getting their degrees on time.

He said it could also impact their financial aid.

"While the reduction in revenue caused by the presence of a picket line can impact a private employer's bottom line, ultimately it is the sons and daughters of Maine who will be most harmed if work stoppages were to disrupt or halt our educational research and public service responsibilities," Page said.

The Labor and Housing Committee will continue working on the bill before deciding whether it will recommend approval to the full legislature.