Word on the Street: Canvassing with Rep. Diane Russell

Silas Paul Archambault — Working America Field Organizer

Our first day canvassing in the downtown Peninsula of Portland, Maine. In my two months with Working America, I had been to several far-flung locations such as Waterville, Rockland, Augusta, Camden, and Hampton (NH). Finally, I had the chance to organize people in my ‘hood. For the first two hours, I had a great time talking with several people knowledgeable about the issues and keen to join the cause. Then, I came to an apartment that, unbeknownst to me, contained a boisterous and articulate resident, just waiting for my arrival: Representative Diane Russell.

“You are from Working America?” she asked, almost as soon as she opened the door.

“Yes!” I replied, matching her enthusiasm. Then, an idea “Would you like to come canvass with me?”

“Of course!” She replied without missing a beat. “I love you guys.”

Within minutes, Diane and I were back out on the street, seeking out her constituents. Almost everyone we talked to signed down.

“Working America is a great member-based organization, which allows non-unionized people to stand with our union brothers and sisters. These are issues that affect us all.”

Diane proves to be an even stronger advocate for Working America than I thought myself to be. In between doors I learned that, like myself, Diane had found herself in the labor struggle with the attacks on organized labor in recent months. Diane traveled to Wisconsin to stand in solidarity with public union members, and realized first hand that the fight was coming to Maine. She shared this news, as well as the pending legislation undermining labor protections, with her constituents every step of the way. Well-connected and media savvy, she was even one of the first people to post about the guerilla light projection of the labor mural onto the state house.

While eliciting letters from new Working America members, I often cite the need for a strong advocate for working families in our legislature. In a state led by a governor who seems to think pro-business means anti-labor, we have a strong and supported Representative in Diane Russell. She understands the needs of Maine working families, and speaks to the critical role of Working America and the AFL-CIO in protecting worker’s rights and advancing economic justice in the state of Maine. Though Diane and I parted ways for the evening, she assured me we will be working side by side in the months to come.

Only 10 minutes of emergency room care?

by Brian McAnally — Maine

A woman I canvassed about health care in the Bangor area told me that she, at 80 years old and on a fixed income, pays over $600.00/month for health insurance. When this woman became ill and was in need of emergency medical attention she was told at the hospital that her insurance would only cover 10 minutes of emergency care. A physician was not available, so a physician’s assistant spoke with the woman for 10 minutes, then discharge papers were placed in her hand and she was wheeled into the parking lot. Having gone to the hospital by herself she had to wait for a passerby to call her a taxi to take her home.

Tags: ,

Give notice? You’re fired!

by Renee Chandel — Maine

A woman today shared with me the story of herself and her friend. They were both working for a store in Maine for two years. In that time the woman I spoke to earned a .25 cent raise, she was making $7.75 an hour. Each of the ladies were offered a job at a competing store in Massachusetts for $12.00 an hour to start in one month. They each gave their current employers a month’s notice and were fired on the spot. The woman I spoke to said that with her husband’s salary she was able to go without a few weeks of pay. Her friend, however, being a single mother was evicted from her home because she was unable to pay rent.

Tags: ,

Frustrated teacher can’t find work

by Renee Chandel — Maine

A woman I talked to was preoccupied with preparing to bring home a new cat, however, she gave me her whole attention when I told her I was fighting to keep good jobs from leaving Maine. She nodded as she looked over the issues we fight for, telling me that she’s “in education.” I asked her if she’s a teacher, she told me she’s been looking for work for over a year now. “I’ll take anything,” she said, “Secretary, retail, anything. I’m certified to teach Special Education.” “That must be frustrating,” I said, “To spend all that time and money studying in college and then not to have work available.” She told me that her doctor told her she would never get through college, needing to have surgery every other week, but she did it, earned her degree in five years. She still has surgery every other week and she pays $400 per month for regular health care, which doesn’t include dental, optical, etc.

Tags: , ,