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Big Talk - Remembering Mother Warren

The latest Big Talk show is a reairing of a documentary produced by the show called "Remembering Mother Warren," which chronicles the labor history of the S.D. Warren paper mill in Westbrook, one of the nation's oldest. The piece won a first place prize for public affairs programming from the Maine association of Broadcasters in 2003 and was sponsored by the Southern Maine Labor Council, the AFL-CIO and the Maine Humanities Council.

"Remembering Mother Warren" unearths the culture of an industrial community, the drama of life working for a once-great employer, and probes the meaning of workers' memories in the face of disruptive industrial change.

You'll hear stories from generations of mill workers and managers, including Shirley Lally, a 30-year veteran who sorted reams of paper by hand, Phil LaViolette, who recalls the struggles of Warren's Franco workers, and Howard Reiche, a former mill manager who describes the mill's paternalism and the favoritism encountered by workers prior to unionization. Other workers tell the history of the S.D. Warren "family," of their experiences in the mill dating back as far as the 1920s, of the extreme heat, dangerous equipment and deadly accidents, a forgotten 1916 strike, unionizing in the 1960s, and of the mill's recent decline. University of Maine historian Charles Scontras, and University of Southern Maine economist and labor historian Michael Hillard provide analysis of the mill's unique labor history.

Download the show here. Subscribe to the podcast here.

False Testimony on DeCoster Bill

As I reported a few weeks ago in the Portland Phoenix, the infamous egg magnate Austin "Jack" DeCoster has some friends in the Maine state legislature, which has been considering a law to help out his companies. That initiative may get voted on as early as today.

I have a magazine piece about all this in the forthcoming issue of Down East, but readers won't see that until after the legislature votes on L.D. 1207, an act that will free Mr. DeCoster's companies from the worry that their workers might one day unionize. The Down East article sheds light on the question many have about Mr. DeCoster: how does he keep getting away with it? But there are a couple timely details to report straightaway. Read more »

Maine's Child Labor Law on Hardball

MPA's new ad on the attempts by Governor LePage and Republicans in the Legislature to roll back child labor protections was featured on Hardball with Chris Matthews last night:

LePage Offered Free Vacation Reading Material

I think I'll set aside my "no press releases on the blog" rule for today to share this:

The Maine People’s Alliance and Longfellow Books are offering Governor Paul LePage some light vacation reading as he leaves the snowbound State of Maine for a golf vacation in Jamaica.

“No one should judge Governor LePage for taking a break. He’s had a tough couple months in office,” said Maine People’s Alliance communications director Mike Tipping. “We hope that he takes the opportunity to engage in some self-reflection, learn a little more about the world, and come back to Maine more ready to work with others.”

Books on the list include a collection of essays about former Labor Secretary Frances Perkins, Silent Spring, the book that sparked the modern environmental movement by exposing the dangers of DDT, and self-help books on how to resolve chaos and conflict.

“We will provide expedited, free shipping to either the Blaine House or Jamaica for any of these books,” said Chris Bowe, co-owner of Longfellow Books and a member of the Maine Small Business Coalition. “Perhaps spending a little time relaxing on the beach reading up on conflict resolution, labor history and environmental science will change the governor’s attitude and tone.” Read more »

Child Labor Laws on Governor's Rollback Agenda

There seems to be a trend emerging here. Augusta these days has more to do with regression than progression. First our Governor proposed  peeling back all environmental protections to the federal standard, and now there is  a bill to eliminate some child labor protections in Maine – taking us back decades!

Maine's child labor laws were first enacted in 1847, and strengthened repeatedly over the years. The reason? Educators complained that students forced to work long hours outside of school were falling asleep in class. The current law limiting working hours for 16 and 17 year-olds was forged through bipartisan agreement about the need to balance employer interests with the health and welfare of Maine children.

The bill on the table seeks to eliminate significant protections regarding working hours for 16 and 17-year-olds. It would make it legal for teens to work up to six hours a day, and as late as 11pm, totaling 32 hours in a week! Under current Maine law, a teen can work up to 20 hours a week, with a maximum of four hours a day, and as late at 10pm.

Our current child labor laws match our values: working teens should be protected from being pushed to work unreasonable hours, especially during the school year. After all, a teen's number one priority should be success in school. Read more »