As the 2014 election nears — sometimes its hard to remember it’s still more than a year away — we’ll be inundated with press releases and notifications that groups throughout the state have thrown their weight behind a particular candidate in a particular race.
Some will be surprises, others will be predictable. For savvy political observers, the announcement today that the Maine State Employees Association — the union which represents about 12,000 state employees and other publicly funded workers — have backed U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud for governor falls squarely in the later category.
It’s not because Michaud is a Democrat, thought that party has historically drawn the support of unions. It’s because he’s as aligned with the policy goals of organized labor as anyone else you could name in Maine politics. He’s regularly supported efforts to raise the minimum wage and make it easier for unions to organize, just to name a few. Michaud has earned 100 percent scores from union groups at least twice — In 2003 by the AFL-CIO and in 2012 by the United Food and Commercial Workers.
He’s also a former mill worker who is still a member of United Steelworkers, the union that represented him at Great Northern Paper. USW also endorsed Michaud this week (double surprise!).
In a press release issued today, MSEA said it had sent surveys to the top three candidates for governor — Michaud, incumbent Republican Gov. Paul LePage and independent businessman Eliot Cutler. LePage did not respond to the survey, but the others did, meaning they each courted the union’s support.
After receiving the surveys, the union interviewed both Cutler and Michaud before choosing the six-term Congressman, said union spokesman Tom Farkas.
“Mike Michaud knows what it’s like to punch a time clock and put in a hard day’s work, and he knows how to work together to get things done for the good of all Mainers,” wrote MSEA member Peggy Rice of Lincolnville, a retired social worker. “Mike Michaud followed his father and grandfather into Great Northern Paper, and he went on to become an equally hardworking state legislator and congressman. Mike Michaud keeps everyday Mainers in mind with every decision he makes. As Governor, he will make sure Maine’s economy works for all of us.”
Though union membership and public approval for labor unions are much lower than in the past, labor groups’ get-out-the-vote machine is still powerful. In 2012, nearly 14 percent of Maine’s labor force was represented by a union. That’s about 78,000 workers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.