Democracy Forum 3/15/24: Unions and Democracy Take Two

Host: Ann Luther, League of Women Voters of Maine
Production Assistance:
Joel Mann

The mostly volunteer team at the League of Women Voters – Downeast who plan and coordinate this series includes: Martha Dickinson, Ruth Eveland, Michael Fisher, Claire Fox, Starr Gilmartin, Maggie Harling, Ann Luther, Rick Lyles, Judith Lyles, Wendilee O’Brien, Leah Taylor, and Linda Washburn.

Democracy Forum: Participatory Democracy, encouraging citizens to take an active role in government and politics

This month:
We’ll revisit topics from our show in 2021, talking about the historical and contemporary links between labor organizing and expanding political rights like voting. Is union organizing an important, if not essential, tool in building a vibrant democracy – of people having a voice in their self-governance? What led to the demise of unions over the last half century? What have been the political consequences? Are unions making a comeback? Why is that? What new trends are emerging here in Maine?

David Madland, Senior Fellow and senior adviser to the American Worker Project at the Center for American Progress

Arthur Phillips, Economic Policy Analyst at the Maine Center for Economic Policy

Cynthia Phinney, President of the Maine AFL-CIO.

To learn more about this topic:
1. Americans’ views of labor unions | Pew Research Center, February, 2024,
2. State worker union filing charges against Mills administration over pay gap | WGME, February, 2024,
3. USPS reschedules meeting on Hampden processing facility | WABI, February, 2024,
4. Local union president shares concerns about proposed changes to Hampden USPS facility | WABI, January, 2024,
5. Union membership grew last year, but only 10% of U.S. workers belong to a union | NPR, January, 2024,
6. Maine’s labor movement sees big shift from small unions | Portland Press Herald, December, 2023,
7. Maine farmworkers deserve equal rights | Bangor Daily News, Food and Medicine Op-ed, December, 2023,
8. UMaine System graduate-student workers win union certification |, October, 2023,
9. Brief: The state of labor organizing in Maine | MECEP, September, 2023,
10. Why Government Unions—Unlike Trade Unions—Corrupt Democracy | TIME April, 2023,
11. Chipotle agrees to pay $240 K after closing a store that sought to unionize | CBS, March, 2023,
12. Chipotle workers in Maine file for chain’s first union election | The Hill, June, 2022,
13. House sustains veto of bill to allow Maine farm workers to unionize | Maine Public, January, 2022,
14. Re-Union by David Madland | Hardcover | Cornell University Press, 2021,
15. Democracy, Union Made, Phil Fishman in The American Interest, September 2007,

About the host:
Ann currently serves as Treasurer of the League of Women Voters of Maine and leads the LWVME Advocacy Team. She served as President of LWVME from 2003 to 2007 and as co-president from 2007-2009. In her work for the League, Ann has worked for greater public understanding of public policy issues and for the League’s priority issues in Clean Elections & Campaign Finance Reform, Voting Rights, Ethics in Government, Ranked Choice Voting, and Repeal of Term Limits. Representing LWVME at Maine Citizens for Clean Elections, she served that coalition as co-president from 2006 to 2011. She remains on the board of MCCE and serves as Treasurer. She is active in the LWV-Downeast and hosts their monthly radio show, The Democracy Forum, on WERU FM Community Radio -which started out in 2004 as an recurring special, and became a regular monthly program in 2012. She was the 2013 recipient of the Baldwin Award from the ACLU of Maine for her work on voting rights and elections. She joined the League in 1998 when she retired as Senior Vice President at SEI Investments. Ann was a founder of the MDI Restorative Justice Program, 1999 – 2000, and served on its Executive Board.