Good morning. This is State Senator Troy Jackson of Allagash.
It’s labor day weekend—a long-held tradition that honors the American worker. This holiday, which began more than a hundred years ago, was borne out of a time similar to ours—a time when workers were working harder for less; a time when a paycheck didn’t stretch far enough to pay the rent; and a time when the voice of the worker was muffled by the power of big monied corporations.
This year, this holiday couldn’t be more important. Labor Day, the day that honors the social and economic achievements of American workers, is critical to rebuilding our country, our state, and our towns. Right now, we wake up each morning seeing the rest of our country emerge from the worst economic recession of our lifetime, yet Maine continues to lag behind.
Too many Mainers are working harder for less. The daily paper reminds us that in the last two years, under Republican leadership, Mainers’ incomes have fallen—and, we are the fifth worst state in the country for job growth. We can do better than that. We want better than that.
The middle class has always been the engine of our economy, but right now there are more Mainers who are falling out of the middle class than joining it.
In the last two years, under Republican watch, Governor LePage and his legislative allies have made it harder to live and work in Maine. They have promoted policies that undercut Maine workers. They’ve tried to take away protections for workers in factories, roll back child labor laws, and take away benefits for workers who were permanently injured on the job through no fault of their own. We need to be strengthening workers and the middle class, not taking away their rights.
I come from a long tradition of loggers—and I am proud of the work I do. I’m also more fortunate than many to even have a job in the woods. In Aroostook County, where I live, there are more people who are unemployed than in the rest of the state. As a logger, I know firsthand what it means to be unsure of when, where and even what my next job is going to be. I know what it’s like to be away from my home and my family for days on end just to earn a living. And sadly, I also know what it’s like to watch my son struggle with the decision to leave our hometown because there’s no opportunity for work—no matter how badly he wants to remain where our family has been since the 1830s. Young people shouldn’t be faced with these situations—not mine and not yours.
We need leaders who stand by us and with us. We need policies where everyone gets paid a fair wage for a hard day’s work. And, we need leaders who are willing to create an atmosphere of opportunity so that anyone who wants to work can also strive for a future in which they too can climb the ladder and achieve economic success. That’s a desire we all share.
I am hopeful that Maine can once again be on the track for prosperity. Maine people are resilient. Maine workers are determined. But it’s time for lawmakers to look out for the very people who sent them to Augusta to get to work.
So this Labor Day weekend, let’s be thankful for the strength and resiliency of Maine workers who each and every day contribute to the success of our state—in our mills and Maine Streets, our office buildings, on our oceans, and at our farms, Maine workers are second to none and are the backbone to our state’s accomplishments.
This is Senator Troy Jackson of Allagash. Thank you for listening and have a great Labor Day weekend.