LePage seeks $7 million bailout for Maine Military Authority

The quasi-governmental business, which once employed more than 500 people refurbishing Humvees and other military vehicles, severely underbid a contract to refurbish Boston transit buses.

A mechanic inspects the underside of a refurbished Humvee at the Maine Military Authority in Limestone in 2005. Over the years, Maine Military Authority refurbished more than 16,000 vehicles, generated $600 million in revenue and, at its peak, employed roughly 550 workers. Associated Press File Photo/Robert F. Bukaty

By Staff Writer Portland Press Herald.

The LePage administration has proposed funneling $7 million to the Maine Military Authority in Aroostook County to cover huge losses incurred when the state-owned business underbid on a contract.

Late last year, Gov. Paul LePage halted work at the Maine Military Authority on a $19 million contract to refurbish 32 aging transit buses for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority in Boston. The work to restore the two-section, articulated buses proved to be much more complicated – and costly – than anticipated, resulting in millions of dollars in losses and eventually layoffs as Maine Military Authority stopped accepting delivery of additional buses.


While officials from Maine Military Authority and state government are trying to renegotiate the contract, they are also seeking a $7 million bailout to rehire workers, complete the work and better position the business in the future. The LePage administration has proposed earmarking $7 million from the state’s year-end surplus to a special Maine Military Authority Reserve Fund.

“The bottom line is our bid was way too low and it created a huge challenge for us,” Hugh Corbett, the authority’s executive director, told members of the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee on Wednesday. “We do need some help to complete this project.”

Located on the former Loring Air Force Base in Limestone, the Maine Military Authority was created by the Legislature in 2000 as a quasi-governmental business to restore military vehicles such as Humvees. Over the years, Maine Military Authority refurbished more than 16,000 vehicles, generated $600 million in revenue and, at its peak, employed roughly 550 workers.

But as the U.S. drew down its large-scale combat presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, orders from the military to refurbish vehicles fell dramatically. So Maine Military Authority leaders have been exploring municipal and commercial contracts as a way to sustain employment and keep the lights on at the large facility.

The contract to refurbish the MBTA buses represented Maine Military Authority’s first major commercial venture. But the authority severely underbid the contract.

Brig Gen. Douglas Farnham, head of the Maine National Guard and commissioner of the Maine Department of Defense, Veterans and Emergency Management, attributed the losses to a combination of factors. The buses were more complex to refurbish and were in worse condition than expected. Parts proved costly to obtain, there were delays starting the work because of bureaucracy and then there was a “misunderstanding on the scope of the work,” said Farnham.

“We were in a situation where we had to halt (work) because we were losing money like crazy but, at the same time, we signed a contract so we had to find a way forward,” Farnham told members of the Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee. “So the primary focus is to finish the contract. The secondary piece of that is to try to establish some structure that buys us a little bit of time to figure out what the right way forward is.”

Maine Military Authority owes an estimated $2.2 million to vendors and has a “cash deficit” of $3.4 million, according to figures provided Wednesday to the Appropriations Committee, which is reviewing the governor’s budget requests.

Farnham said taxpayers have never been asked to subsidize the Maine Military Authority before in its nearly 20-year history. In fact, the authority funneled money back into the state’s General Fund for several years.

But after the loss of the military contracts, employment levels at Maine Military Authority had dropped to just 65 workers prior to the recent layoffs. There are currently 28 employees, although the $7 million will allow the authority to rehire most of the workers who had been employed on the MBTA project, Farnham said.

Some lawmakers expressed concerns about the long-term future of the Military Authority and the state’s involvement in the business.

“I am concerned that the government is in a private-sector business,” said Rep. Jeffrey Timberlake, R-Turner, one of the Appropriations Committee’s more conservative members. “I understand why we did it to help Loring and to help Aroostook, and I believe in all of those things. … But my experience in dealing with it, for the 25 years of my life that I have been bidding with the government, is this is a path that will continue.”

The LePage administration had originally wanted $10 million in surplus funds for the Maine Military Authority but reduced that request to $7 million on Wednesday.

Back in September when he ordered work to halt on the MBTA buses, LePage expressed “major concerns” about the underbid contract and the costs to taxpayers. At the time, Farnham said they planned to attempt to renegotiate the contract with MBTA, adding that the state “cannot in good faith create a financial burden to taxpayers and we will work to protect these good jobs for Mainers.”

Neither Corbett nor Farnham discussed details of the contract renegotiations but a hand-out to lawmakers said the new contract will lead to increased labor hours, a larger budget for parts and lead to a program that “will be revenue neutral going forward.”

Farnham and Corbett said they expect details of the renegotiated contract to be announced soon.

“We will not go into further debt to complete this project,” Corbett said.

LePage spokesman Peter Steele, meanwhile, said the additional money “is designed to position MMA to complete MBTA work, continue other work in the pipeline and position MMA for the future.”

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Labor Opponents Already Have The Next ‘Friedrichs’ SCOTUS Case Ready to Go Under Trump

As Democrats and the labor movement prepare for a possible fight over Trump’s imminent appointment to the Supreme Court, they should recognize that several major labor cases, brought by some of labor’s most persistent enemies, are waiting in the wings. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

The Supreme Court gave unions an unexpected victory last year when it issued a decision in a case that had threatened to take away the right of public sector unions to collect dues from workers they represent. That win may be short-lived.

Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association was meant to be the capstone in decades of cases that sought to have the courts determine that fair-share fees for public sector workers are unconstitutional. Fair-share fees, or agency fees, require workers represented by a union to pay the portion of fees that covers collective bargaining. They seek to balance the worker’s right to dissent from the union by relinquishing membership and not paying for activities that aren’t related to collective bargaining, with the union’s right to avoid free riders and not be forced to represent a worker who contributes nothing.

The Supreme Court, largely through decisions written by Justice Samuel Alito, had indicated that its 1977 case that allowed for fair-share fees in the public sector was ripe for a rare overturning by the Court. It all but invited a challenge. Several cases were in the pipeline, but Friedrichs took the unusual approach of conceding before each lower court that it should be dismissed so that it could move quickly to the Supreme Court. Friedrichs faced a hostile oral argument before a conservative majority; unions braced for the worst. Then, as the Court was drafting its opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia died, and with him, so did Friedrichs. The Supreme Court issued a tied 4-4 decision affirming the lower court in March.

However, there is another case in the pipeline that was stayed pending the outcome of Friedrichs. That case, which began as Rauner v. AFSCME, was originally brought by the ultra-wealthy Republican Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, who—shortly after taking office—issued an executive order placing all fair-share fees in an escrow account, rather than turning them over to unions. But Rauner screwed up a basic part of the case because he didn’t have standing to bring the case.

A federal judge wrote that Rauner “has no personal interest at stake. He is not subject to the fair share fees requirement. Instead, he essentially claims to have a duty to protect the First Amendment rights of all public employees in the state … In effect, he seeks to represent the non-member employees subject to the fair share provisions of the collective bargaining agreements. He has no standing to do so. They must do it on their own.”

To fix the problem, employees filed as intervenors (“undoubtedly with the Governor’s blessing,” as the judge noted), with the backing of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the Liberty Justice Center.

Janus v. AFSCME, named after one of the workers, is pursuing the same strategy as Friedrichs in trying to get to the Supreme Court quickly. The Janus plaintiffs filed their second amended complaint in July, stating that the Supreme Court’s 1977 Abood v. Detroit Board of Education case, which permitted fair-share fees, remains good law, and all but invited the District Court in the Northern District of Illinois to dismiss their complaint. The District Court did so, and in their appeal to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, the plaintiffs similarly state that their case must be dismissed. The goal, of course, is to get the case in front of the Supreme Court just as a Donald Trump appointee to the Court is seated.

Seattle University School of Law professor Charlotte Garden explains that this strategy also “allows the case to go up without a factual record. This means that there is no record that the unions can point the justices to in order to show the importance of agency fees.”

In Friedrichs, Justices Ruth Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer tried to give the union’s attorney the opportunity to state what he would have put in the record if he had had the opportunity to do so. But, as Garden explains, “being asked to make a proffer before the Supreme Court is tricky without the ability to engage in discovery.”

The Janus case is almost identical to the Friedrichs case in that both are premised on the idea that there is no line in the public sector between political and non-political activity. Conservatives justices have firmly embraced this rational, as was evident during the Friedrichs oral argument when Chief Justice John Roberts challenged California’s attorney to give his “best example of something that is negotiated over in a collective bargaining agreement with a public employer that does not present a public policy question.” The attorney responded that mileage reimbursement rates were such an example. Roberts shot back, “That’s money. That’s how much money is going to have to be paid to the teachers. If you give more mileage expenses, that costs more money.”

If everything that a public sector union does is political, then it is a much shorter line to find that a worker should not have to pay any part of the costs of collective bargaining. This would be a very worrisome conclusion for unions, which must do what they can now to stop such an outcome from happening.

As Democrats and the labor movement prepare for a possible fight over Trump’s imminent appointment to the Supreme Court, they should recognize that several major labor cases, brought by some of labor’s most persistent enemies, are waiting in the wings. Senators should question nominees about their view of Abood and other Supreme Court precedents that protect public employees’ labor rights. And if labor has any sway within the Democratic Party, it should make it clear that these issues should be disqualifying for any new appointment to the Court.

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U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders displays and quotes Donald J. Trump tweets during floor speech on repealing #ACA. Watch full speech from Bernie Sanders

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MBTA did not collect $1.8 million in overdue funds, audit finds


By Michelle Williams | Michelle.Williams@MassLive.com

More than $1.8 million is due to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, according to an audit released by the office of the state Auditor Tuesday.

The audit found long overdue account balances have been left on the books, totaling $1,863,103 more than 90 days past due. Approximately half of the accounts are more than a decade past due, according to the Massachusetts state auditor’s office.

“The MBTA should take all appropriate steps to collect funds that are due to the agency, but should also realistically write-off balances that are not likely to be recouped. This ensures an accurate picture of the financial status of the entity,” Auditor Suzanne M. Bump said in a statement.

The transportation authority dealt with vacancies in management positions and multi-million dollar deficits in recent years.

More than 260 employees took buyouts earlier this year, the Boston Globe reports, as apart of a plan to eliminate 300 positions from the agency’s payroll.

“As leadership at the MBTA considers significant overhauls, they should first look at their oversight processes to ensure that they have adequate protections in place to protect taxpayer funds from theft, loss, or abuse,” Bump said. “Without these protections, systemic problems like those identified in our audit will likely continue, despite structural changes.”

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FMCB board greenlights fare collection bid process.


Via Commonwealth Magazine

By Bruce Mohl.

THE MBTA’S OVERSIGHT BOARD on Monday gave the transit agency’s staff a green light to put out a request for proposals for companies to design, build, finance, operate, maintain, and manage a new automated fare collection system.

The T’s chief technology officer, David Block-Schacter, said the new system would be cashless and allow passengers to board and exit at any door on buses and Green Line trains. Quicker boarding should cut bus travel times by 10 percent, he said.

Customers will be able to pay fares using T-issued cards, credit cards, and smart phones. They will purchase T rides at fare vending machines, retail stores, or online. The T-issued cards will cost $5 apiece, although free cards will be distributed through social service agencies to the needy, according to Block-Schacter.

Existing Charley Cards cost 70 cents to produce, and are given away for free. Block-Schacter said the new smart cards will cost an estimated $2.50 to produce, which could put a significant financial burden on the T. He said nearly 18 million Charley Cards have been issued, which would cost close to $50 million to replace with smart cards.

Block-Schacter said 21 of the 25 largest transit agencies currently charge for their smart cards. Chicago charges $5, while the Philadelphia transit system collects $4.95. He also said riders who use their smart phones or credit cards to pay fares would not have to pay the $5 fee.

T officials said 3.8 percent of their existing customers pay fares with cash and 3.3 percent reload their Charlie Cards on board Green Line trains and buses.

Block-Schacter said he didn’t know what the new automated fare collection contract would cost. He also said the new fare collection system could be adapted to whatever type of fare system is desired, so existing monthly passes could be continued.

The request for proposals will seek a system that would install card readers at every door so passengers would not have to line up for time-consuming fare collection at the front of the train or bus. The system would also be designed so the departure points of passengers could be monitored, which theoretically would allow the T to collect fares based on distance traveled.

Block-Schacter said the existing fare collection boxes on board buses and Green Line trains would be removed once the new automated fare collection system is up and running. He referred to the boxes as “Mercedes” because the boxes cost approximately the same as a Mercedes-Benz vehicle.

Lou Antonellis, the president of IBEW Local 103, which represents workers in the T’s existing fare collection department, urged the transit agency to collaborate with the union during the transition to a new system. The likely contract language, however, would privatize the entire operation because it refers to the contractor handling the design, financing, operation, maintenance, and management of the new system.

Joseph Aiello, the chairman of the T’s Fiscal and Management Control Board, said “this is terrific” after Block-Schacter completed his presentation. Monica Tibbits-Nutt, a member of the board, also hailed the initiative. “Nobody likes paying cash on board,” she said.

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Baker: ‘Acts of God’ justify fine waivers for Keolis.

BakerTheUnionBreakerVia Commonwealth Magazine.

By Jack Sullivan.

GOV. CHARLIE BAKER said waiving the fines against Keolis for “acts of God” during the brutal winter of 2015 was the right thing to do but insisted the commuter rail operator has been held to answer for shoddy performance over the past year and half and will continue to be fined if the late trains continue.

The Boston Globe reported over the weekend that MBTA officials quietly forgave almost half the $1.7 million in fines levied against Keolis in February and March of last year. But Baker said after review, the fines that were waived were a result of circumstances beyond the rail company’s control, which is allowed by the contract language. He added Keolis paid more than $6 million in fines for failing to meet on-time goals and they won’t be getting any of that back.

“It’s pretty hard to argue the winter of 2015 wasn’t an act of God,” Baker said of the record-breaking snowfall. “I have no intention, nor does the MBTA, of waiving any of those fines associated with on-time performance. They paid those fines and they should have… The fines associated with some of the more technical stuff that were tied more directly with the issues around the weather, I think the T made the right decision.”

The Globe had reported that the T absolved Keolis of the fines in November of last year but Baker said the decision was actually made and relayed to company officials seven months earlier, in May of last year, “before we had a Fiscal and Management Control Board.” Baker said the letter in the fall that the Globe was referring to merely made note of the decision to earlier forgive the $839,000 fine. But, he added, with the fiscal control board in place, the process of measuring performance and assessing penalties has been and will be much more consistent and evenly carried out.

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A note from the President of 264.


Brothers and Sisters,

The Officers, Business Reps, and Executive Board say thank you to the members of Local 264 who joined Local 589 and other locals on the picket line on Thursday morning. It was a great showing of solidarity.

The recent arrests of our brothers from the leadership of the Carmens Union Local 589, is just another example of union members making a stand on the attacks on working men and women at the MBTA and throughout the this great country. These men stood up against the direction our state and country is spiraling towards, which is the complete destruction of the middle class.

Utilizing the power of doubt, republicans and corporations have made some Americans think that unions are a negative thing.

They have spent billions upon billions of dollars hoping we all will be convinced that what they are saying is the truth and distracting people from reality, while behind the scenes they work to dismantle the middle class piece by piece. This is not a new tactic. They have been eroding union and working families power and rights for a long time.
Outsourcing and privatization, are words becoming all to familiar in America. These two words we hear everyday are slowly eroding middle class America.

Republicans and Corporate America want unions out of the way because the labor movement provides constant problems for them and the reasons are simple.

We vote.
We watch.
We protect workers.
We demand equality.
We demand a fair wage.
We demand healthcare for all.
We are transparent.
We care about the greater good.

When will we realize, that we, the workers of this great country are the heart and soul of the everyday American life, and no one group or political establishment has the right to take that away?

The only way the politicians will listen is when we tell them at the polls. You must get involved, get educated, and vote.

Governor Bakers agenda is clear. He has failed to be transparent. Yet came to the table and asked all of the unions at the MBTA for our help when he needed to be successful with a $92 million dollar investment in the infrastructure at the T. We fully supported the expenditure because it the one thing labor has said all along, invest in the MBTA.

I ask you all to stay the course. Be involved. Be educated on what is happening. Be supportive of your leadership. Be attentive and understand the political environment we all are facing. Most importantly look to each other for solidarity. The fight to keep public transportation public has just begun, be prepared to be involved. Your livelihood, families, and your fellow union members are depending on it.

In solidarity,

James Mastandrea
IAM Local 264 Boston

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Keep “Public” Transportation “Public”.

Dear Local 264 members,

Last week the MBTA’s Fiscal Management Control Board presented their yearly required report to the legislature. This particular report highlighted what they have privatized already (money room, tire shop, etc) and this report finally opened the door for more privatization, and they have turned their attention towards the jobs of bus drivers, as well as bus and train maintenance workers

Please join Local 264’s leadership, along with your fellow union brothers and sisters from the Coalition of Unions on Monday September 12th at 10:30am for a rally and informational picket at 10 Park Plaza, which is where the next FCMB meeting will be held. You should ONLY attend this if you are NOT SCHEDULED TO WORK. Everyone, including family and retirees are encouraged and invited to attend and make your collective voices heard and ask that public transportation stays public.

This is the time you must step up for your family, your livelihoods, and your union sisters and brothers. Please get involved.

In solidarity,

Local 264 Officers and Executive Board.


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Make it a Union Made Labor Day!

Happy Labor Day!

The kids are back in school, which means the unofficial end of summer is coming. But the sun is still shining bright and with Labor Day right around the corner the grill needs to be put to work at least once more. We’ve also got plenty of union-made games, drinks and snacks to make your party a smash hit.

Click the Image Above to Download the Product Spotlight

Grill It:
Ball Park franks
Butterball turkey tenderloins, drumsticks, burgers and franks
Dearborn Sausage Company
Empire Kosher chicken and turkey
Foster Farms poultry
Hormel beef, pork and chicken franks
Omaha Steaks

Pour It:
Bass Pale Ale
Bud and Bud Light
Coors Light
Killian’s Irish Red
Land Shark Lager
Mad River Brewing Jamaican Red
Miller Genuine Draft
Sam Adams
Dr. Pepper
Barq’s Root Beer

Play It:
Connect Four

Snack It:
Act II Popcorn
Chex Mixes
Rold Gold Pretzels
Slim Jim
Sun Chips
Wheat Thins

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National Group Protection supplemental benefits.


Brothers and Sisters,

Representatives from National Group Protection will be onsite August 24th—September 2nd to communicate the supplemental benefits offered to IAMAW Local 264 members at the MBTA.  Please take the time to meet with a representative to enroll, make changes to the coverage you already have or address any customer service/claims issues.

·         Accident Insurance

·         Critical Illness Coverage

·         Short Term Disability

·         Whole Life Insurance

There are some benefit enhancements/upgrades this year, so please take the time to sit down with a benefit counselor and review your options.  This is also an excellent time to make sure you have filed for your annual health screening benefits, which are part of the accident and critical illness benefit plans.

·         Supplemental – these plans supplement any existing coverage

·         Voluntary – members choose to participate

·         Limited Underwriting – no medical or physical exams required

·         Family Coverage – available with all of the plans (except Disability)

·         Portable – members can continue coverage if they leave the company (except Disability)

·         Payroll Deduction – premiums are paid through payroll deduction

Enrollment Schedule

1.       Everett Shops                                                               August 24th—26th

2.       Quincy                                                                           August 24th—25th

3.       Arborway                                                                      August 26th and 29th

4.       Arlington                                                                       August 29th—31st

5.       Charlestown / Outside Machine Shop                      August 29th—31st

6.       Cabot                                                                             August 30th—31st

7.       Lynn                                                                               August 31st—September 1st

8.       Fellsway                                                                        September 1st—2nd

9.       South Hampton                                                            September 1st—2nd

10.   Albany Garage                                                              September 1st—2nd

If you have any questions regarding the upcoming enrollment, please contact National Group Protection (NGP) at 800-344-9016.

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