Opinion

Ending the decade with working class wins

As 2019 comes to a close, I wanted to take a moment to reflect upon this past year, or better yet, this past decade. The truth is the state experienced a lot of ups and downs over the past 10 years. But between significant health care reforms, property tax relief and investments in good-paying jobs, Maine ultimately ended the decade stronger than it started.

 

For me, my focus in the Legislature throughout the past decade has remained the same — improving the daily lives of regular, working-class Mainers. It’s why I’ve introduced legislation to take on corporate interests and policies that favor the wealthy elite over and over again. It’s why I’ve fought to create a fair economy and support hardworking Mainers every year I’ve been in office. 

In many cases, these bold proposals didn’t pass on the first try. It took working together and building a strong coalition to shake up the system and secure a number of critical wins.

At the start of the decade, I introduced legislation to support the loggers and wood haulers who worked in the Maine woods. Too many Maine loggers and wood haulers were losing out on jobs in their own back yard to cheaper Canadian labor. It wasn’t the Canadians’ fault — they had a national health insurance program, a favorable exchange rate and a government that had their back. They could afford to work for less. Meanwhile, Maine loggers and wood haulers didn’t have the ability to legally organize and advocate for better working conditions, fair wages and reasonable hours. While we weren’t successful at first, we didn’t let up. 

This year, Maine passed a groundbreaking law that restores the rights of Maine loggers and haulers to form a cooperative and collectively bargain. Already, it’s getting results. In November, the newly created New England Loggers Cooperative entered into an agreement with Matériaux Blanchet Inc., a major lumber mill in Quebec. Under the agreement, any lumber harvested from its land in Maine will be cut and shipped by Maine loggers and haulers. The end goal is to have all the wood shipped to that mill be harvested and shipped by Americans. This is a big deal, and I promise we’re certainly not done fighting for Maine workers in this or any other industry.

In 2013, I introduced legislation to increase access to affordable prescription drugs. The bill was designed to allow Mainers to fill their prescriptions via mail from Canada. Although it initially became law, the Maine Supreme Court sided with “Big Pharma” and struck down the law shortly after it went into effect. Still, we didn’t give up. 

The high cost of prescription drugs has squeezed Maine families for a long time. As a lawmaker, I believe we have a responsibility to do something about it. We have to exhaust every safe and available option.  Now, in 2019, Maine is on track to set up a wholesale prescription drug importation program from Canada. 

And that’s only part of the story. Last year, lawmakers passed two laws to lower the cost of prescription drug: a bill I introduced to increase access to cheaper, generic medication and a bill to increase price transparency. This year we built on that success by passing a bold prescription drug reform package that takes on “Big Pharma” from every angle. 

If there is any takeaway for me, it’s this: We cannot stop fighting for what is right. Throughout this past decade, we’ve built a strong coalition of working families all across the state, who are demanding affordable health care, good-paying jobs and a fair economy. The good news is that we’re finally seeing results. But our work isn’t over yet. I’m looking forward to picking up where we left off when the Legislature returns on Jan. 8.

I want to wish you and your families a happy and healthy new year. I feel fortunate to have earned the opportunity to serve you in the Maine Senate. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to call 207-287-1500 or email me at Troy.Jackson@legislature.maine.gov

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