Weekly Radio Address – April 30th, 2011

Good Morning. This is Senator Troy Jackson from Allagash.

As the ranking Democrat on the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development committee, I am concerned about the continued assault toward Maine workers by this administration and the majority party.

The record needs to be set straight. And to do that I’m going to tell you what Maine’s newest employer said. Robert Somerville, Chairman of ABS, a high-tech ship modeling operation, announced earlier this week that he is relocating ABS from India to Brunswick, Maine. And when asked “why?”, he said the number one reason for moving to Maine is that the “Maine work ethic is second-to-none.” Second-to-none.

Somerville’s positive comment was said as he stood next to Governor LePage during the ABS’s relocation announcement. I hope the Governor was listening. And more importantly I hope he heard. I hope my colleagues from the Majority Party also heard.

Amidst the controversy of the labor mural, the Governor said that the mural removal was about improving the climate and tone to reflect a more pro-business attitude.

Well, it’s been said before and I’ll say it again, you can’t be pro-business, pro-jobs but be anti-worker.

The tone during this legislative session and from the new administration is one of hostility toward Maine workers—or worse yet, insulting to the many Mainers who want to work but can’t find a job.

We hear over and over again from the administration that we’re in trouble. Our economy is in trouble. New Hampshire is a better place to do business and yes, that Maine workers are lazier and whinier than our Canadian workers from the North.

The conversation has devolved to a new all-time low.

In a matter of weeks, Maine’s industrial landowners who hire foreign workers were given tax breaks. Yet, Maine small businesses were denied tax breaks for hiring Maine workers.

And during the same House floor debate where Maine loggers were categorized as inferior to Canadian workers, we were told that it made sense to hire foreign labor because it’s cheaper.

Well I couldn’t disagree more. It is far from cheap. And it’s certainly not a bargain or discount. Abandoning Maine workers for fire-sale Canadian wages is poor policy and frankly immoral. Shrouding anti-worker sentiment with a pro-business attitude is an expensive practice. And here’s why: not only does it abandon Maine workers and families, it dries up all the money that gets spent and sustains our local economy. If there are fewer jobs and less money, then our downtowns will lose patrons and businesses suffer and potentially close. All of this could lead to our downtowns becoming ghost towns. We start seeing first generation poverty kick in as families can’t afford the fuel for their trucks or food for their tables. Kids watch their parents struggle to pay their mortgage. Dismayed and fearful, the kids move—far far away. If we’re lucky, they stay in Maine but often they flee out of state. Then towns are flooded with “for sale” signs advertising family homesteads for a song. And, so the people move and the houses remain empty and there are more vacant houses than there are people and the very fabric of a community stretches and sometimes breaks.

I am not trying to be morose but as a logger in Aroostook County, this is personal. And, it’s real to many of the people back home.

As Democrats we are committed to seeing businesses succeed and are working hard to make sure we strengthen our economy. But, we will not let elected officials insult the ability, intelligence, integrity, or motivation of the Maine worker. All we have to do is look at the eleven panels of the labor mural to see our ancestors who fought for safe working conditions, who sacrificed for their families, community, and country to do the best job they could doing shift work.

We hear a lot about the Maine brand in terms of blueberries, lobster, whoopie pies and LL Bean. But there’s also a “Maine brand” for the Maine worker and it stands for hard work, persistence, diligence, and cooperation. We won’t give up. Because we know that if given a chance, the Maine worker will outwork any other.

Governor, please support the working people of Maine—and the many people who want to work but can’t find the work to do. It’s not enough to hang an “Open for Business” sign at Maine’s southern border. As a lifelong resident of the county, I am proud of the reputation of the Maine work ethic. We need to treat Maine workers as valuable as we do any other natural resource—and that includes protecting jobs for Maine workers.

This is Senator Troy Jackson. Thank you for listening and have a great day.