AUGUSTA, Maine — A bill to allow some public workers in Maine to go on strike advanced in the state's Legislature on Monday.
Under current law, teachers and other public employees can rally and protest -- but they are not allowed to go on strike.
LD 900, sponsored by Rep. Michael Sylvester (D-Portland), would give teachers and many other public workers the ability to strike if they could not reach agreement on new contracts.
The bill would exclude people employed in the safety realm of public work, like police, firefighters, and corrections workers.
The opinions about the bill are, however, largely divided.
"The reality is, I don't know if there would be anyone who would actually do it -- but at least the opportunity's there. If things get so bad, they have some other avenue to pursue," said Senate President Troy Jackson (D-Allagash). "As it is now, administrations can say, 'This is what we're going to give you,' and that's it."
"It would be just so disruptive to have the University of Maine system, the community college systems shut down by strikes," said Stacey Guerin (R-Glemburn). "They're there to serve the public. On average, the public sector employees make seven thousand dollars a year more than private sector, so I think they're doing pretty well in their negotiating."
The bill is likely to follow a party line battle in the House and Senate. There is no word yet when the bill is up for debate.
Gov. Janet Mills' office says she has not yet taken a position on the issue.