For Mainers, Attacks on Workers Compensation Is A Teachable Moment

by Matt Caston – Augusta, Maine

For the past week, Working America canvassers have been knocking on doors and calling our members in order to defeat a bill that would endanger Maine’s Workers’ Compensation System, which is currently one of the best in the country.

As I write this, the entire Working America team is currently stuffed into an overflow room where injured workers wait to testify in opposition to this legislation. One reason we’re in here is the sheer number of injured workers who have come to the state capital in Augusta to share their stories. The other reason? The large group of insurance industry representatives, who have rallied as a buffer to our testimonies, are taking up a healthy amount of the seating.

The public hearings for “An Act To Amend the Laws Governing Workers’ Compensation” are being held today in the midst of a legislative session where we have seen repeated attacks on workers.

As we sit here with workers who have been severely injured on the job and even permanently disabled from the workplace, it’s appalling to think that this bill would deny many of these people long-term support for permanent impairment in the workplace due to severe physical and mental trauma.

In spite of the odds against us, I’ve been buoyed by the amount of support that we’ve encountered from our members;  going door to door, answering our calls, and getting fired up enough to be here with us during the testimony.

Larry, one of our members who came to our Labor Lobby Day last Thursday, remarked to me: “I had always viewed unions as a classically Democratic institution; at least that’s how the media and my party seem to portray it. I’ve learned a lot today about a side to these issues and unions that I never knew before. It’s interesting that there is a whole side that you don’t even hear.” He now sits with us in solidarity during workers’ testimony, eager to learn more about an issue of which he was only exposed to one side.

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