From Salary to health and safety, MEA has your back!
The MEA is your voice at the State House, and your Union has been working hard to push for policies that will better your work and home lives. Below are a few of the key issues MEA raised with lawmakers, who turned them into bills for discussion. While some issues will be harder to gain support from lawmakers than others, raising the topic in front of decision-makers allows our voices to be heard and helps increase awareness for hope of passage in the future. If you have questions on any issue, please reach out to MEA’s Director of Government Relations, John Kosinski.
School Funding 55%
For over a decade, the MEA has consistently and aggressively advocated for the state to fund 55% of the cost of public schools in the state. We even supported two statewide ballot initiatives to demand the state pay 55% of the cost of schools because we know how important funding is for our members and their classrooms. As of this writing, the Governor has proposed fully funding the 55% requirement for the first time in history and we are eager to see it pass, and we are confident it will. This has been a long journey and thousands of MEA members across the state have played a role in helping us get to this point.
Increased Bargaining Rights
The MEA continues to work to find ways to increase members’ voices at the bargaining table. The legislative changes have been difficult, but a new measure, LD 52: An Act Regarding Collective Bargaining Negotiations by Public Employers of Teachers, is a new attempt. The bill would make planning and prep time and transfers a permissive subject of bargaining. Currently, both items have been deemed prohibited subjects of bargaining, but this bill would change that and allow for the negotiation of both items. Additionally, LD 677 would bring binding arbitration to all public sector union contracts.
Privacy During Remote Instruction
During the pandemic, educators were thrust into remote instruction with new challenges, including privacy issues. This bill, LD 864, would create protections for teachers while they deliver online instruction, and is a direct response to specific incidents where teachers found unauthorized videos of their lessons circulated on social media.
Ending Workplace Bullying
To prevent workplace bullying of school employees, LD 880 requires every school board in the state to adopt a policy preventing the bullying of school employees and allows school employees to file a grievance if the district fails to implement the workplace anti-bullying policy.
Delay State-Mandated Teacher and Principal Evaluations
The MEA worked with legislators to create this bill, LD 1172, which would allow school districts to forgo their evaluation systems for next school year. If passed, the bill would allow districts to temporarily waive their PE/PG systems for teachers and principals until the 2022-2023 school year.
School Board and Educator Communication
This bill, LD 816, will make it explicit that school board members have the right and the obligation to communicate with educators and the voters about key topics. In too many districts, educators have been told they cannot or shouldn’t talk to school board members. This bill is an effort to open the lines of communication to help increase collaboration.
Health and Safety
COVID-19 Sick Leave Reimbursement
The pandemic raised many new issues school employees have never had to deal with before, including the need to use sick leave due to quarantine. LD 993, as amended, would require school districts to reimburse any school employees forced to use sick leave due to the need to quarantine, or if they had COVID or symptoms of COVID.
Air Quality Improvement
Improving indoor air quality has been amplified as a key health and safety measure since the pandemic began. MEA has worked to advocate for improved air quality in our schools and held informational webinars on the topic. This bill, LD 705, is part of MEA’s advocacy around this issue. The bill requires the Department of Education to update the air quality and ventilation standards for all public schools after a rule-making process which would allow for the public, including educators, to weigh in.
Menstrual Products for Students
MEA testified in support of this legislation, LD 452, that would require schools to provide menstrual products for students. While MEA understands this happens in some schools, there is currently no universal policy to require this, and this bill would change that. MEA President, Grace Leavitt, testified stating: “It isn’t only an issue of fairness or even of affordability…having access to menstrual products can help to positively impact a student’s confidence and thus even affect her future.”
An ongoing goal of the MEA is to advocate for minority involvement in the Association and educational and training programs designed to enhance human and civil rights. This bill, LD 633, would require all certified educators to have at least some training in implicit bias or diversity, equity and inclusion for recertification.
MEA position: Support
Reduce Cost of Retiree Health Insurance
The MEA has been working hard to help eligible retirees afford health insurance. This bill, LD 293, would lift the state contribution towards healthcare for eligible retirees from 45% to 55%.
Salary and Benefits
$16/hour minimum wage for all school employees
This bill, if passed, LD 734, would create a new minimum wage of $16 for all hourly staff in schools starting July 1, 2022.
Step Increases Despite Expired Contracts
The Labor Committee passed a bill, LD 824, that would ensure union members in schools and higher education institutions get their step increases, even if their contract has expired. MEA understands many employers use step increases to leverage settlements, guaranteeing employees would receive steps, regardless of settlement, makes the negotiation process one that won’t negatively financially affect members.
Bus Driver Unemployment Eligibility
This bill, LD 1509, is a perennial one and the MEA will once again support the proposal that will allow bus drivers to apply for unemployment benefits. The MEA will also ask that the bill cover other hourly employees such as ed techs, school custodians and others. While the MEA will advocate for this measure, the union is not optimistic it will pass, despite our efforts.
Extend Family Medical Leave to Hourly School Employees
This bill, LD 912, tries to clarify language in the Family Medical Leave Act to help hourly school employees qualify. Currently, the hours requirements make it nearly impossible for an hourly school employee to qualify. MEA believes this bill is a clarification that will help more qualify for FMLA, when they need it.
Faculty and Non-Faculty Staff Members to Board of Trustees
LD 1253 responds to the voices of our members in higher education who have felt their voices were not heard by the UMaine System Board of Trustees. If passed, the bill would provide for one faculty member and one staff member to serve on the Univ of Maine system Board of Trustees. A majority of the Education Committee supported this proposal and it will now go to the House and Senate for votes.