Weekly Radio Address: Senator Vitelli says, "Maine workers drive our economy, fuel our businesses, and grow the middle class"
Good Morning. This is newly-elected State Senator Eloise Vitelli of Arrowsic.
It’s Labor Day weekend. A time when our country takes pause to offer homage to the American worker. It’s a holiday that dates back more than a hundred years—and, it was borne out of an economic time very similar to the one we’ve experienced the last several years with the Great Recession.
But there is no doubt, in a hundred years, we have made strides for the American worker. Workplaces are safer. Teen workers are protected. And even though we must do more, there is a minimum wage.
But there are other differences.
Today, more than ever before, there are more women in the workforce—nearly fifty percent of the American workforce are women.
Women are a growing number of breadwinners for their families. And, in many cases, women out number men at our colleges and universities—and, are going on to get advanced degrees.
Nationally, women own more than thirty percent of all small businesses.
Our role, as women in the workplace, is central to the national economy—and, to the Maine economy.
For me, sharing this, is about more than just economic and workforce trends. It’s been personal. For more than thirty years, through my work at Women, Work and Community, I have assisted Maine workers and small businesses. I started a statewide training program, that has helped more than three-thousand people—men and women—start successful businesses.
For example, Lisa from Palmyra started Oats Anytime, a gluten-free product she sells nationwide; it was featured at a Taste of Maine event hosted by Senator Susan Collins in Washington this Spring.
I am proud of these accomplishments, and know, that it is exactly this entrepreneurial spirit and determination to succeed that is seminal to the Maine work ethic. And better yet, the reputation of the Maine worker is nationally known as being second-to-none.
As so as we look to what is needed to grow our state’s economy, to put more people back to work, and ensure that hard working Mainers earn what is fair, we must look at how to capitalize on the spirit of Maine workers by training them for the jobs of today and preparing them for the jobs of tomorrow.
Earlier this week, I along with my Senate and House colleagues, took one step closer toward achieving that goal by passing a $149.5 million bond package that includes investments in many things like our state’s infrastructure and higher education facilities.
We all agree that critical investments are needed for our roads and bridges, ports and rail. Ask any Maine driver and they’ll tell of the potholes and torn up roads we all have to travel on to get from “here to there”. This bond package addresses those concerns by investing $100 million in transportation issues. The good news, is that this will be a boost to our construction workers in the short-and long-term.
We also invested $35.5 million in science, technology, engineering and math facilities at every campus of the University of Maine and Maine Community College systems and the Maine Maritime Academy. Prioritizing these so-called STEM programs and facilities ensures that Maine can train students and workers in high-demand, high-wage jobs, and, compete—perhaps even out-innovate and out-educate other states.
In looking ahead, I am hopeful that beyond making these long overdue upgrades and investments in our college and university classrooms and science labs, that we realize we also need to invest in the people who learn and train in these facilities. We need to do more to encourage innovation—whether it’s through research and development or encouraging more STEM training.
Ultimately, it is our people, our workers who drive our economy. It is our workers who fuel our businesses. It is our workers who build and grow the middle class.
On this Labor Day weekend, let’s reflect not only on the work that we do, and the labor of our predecessors, but let’s look ahead to the future and think about all the possibility that remains in building the legacy of the Maine worker and the American worker.
This is State Senator Eloise Vitelli. I thank you for listening. And have a good holiday weekend.