Title: Director of the Bureau of Labor Education
Research focus: Occupational health and safety, leadership development,
employment law, collective bargaining and contract maintenance
with UMaine: 32
Milestones: Author or coauthor of 16
publications on employment law, occupational health and safety, and
labor relations. This is the Bureau of Labor Education's 40th
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How do you characterize the state of the U.S. labor market and
A: In recent years, there have been tremendous changes in the
United States labor market and the labor movement. These include major
transformations in the U.S. and world economies; new innovations in the
workplace and on the worksite; intense international competition among
nations, employers and organizations; significant evolution in U.S.
political and legal environments; and dramatic change in labor
relations, such as major organizational upheaval within the labor
movement itself. A remarkable aspect of organized labor in the U.S. is
its continued ability and potential to adapt to these changes.
What's important for the public to know about Maine labor?
Maine labor has a diverse and unique history. In addition, labor
continues to play an influential role in the state's economy,
particularly in its major employment sectors involving shipbuilding and
repair, pulp and papermaking, construction, government, healthcare and
education on all levels. Of equal importance, Maine's labor
organizations carry out their legal rights and responsibilities by
representing members in the workplace concerning wages, hours and
What's one of the biggest misconceptions about American labor
A: One of the biggest misconceptions about U.S. labor organizations
is that they are autocratic, undemocratic institutions run by "union
bosses." Overall, if one studies the history, functions and activities
of labor unions and the labor movement, this is largely incorrect. Like
any other large institution, there is no denying that there have been,
and still are, some autocratic leaders within the labor movement.
However, the vast majority of unions on the local, state and national
levels are run openly and democratically. This not only is because union
members have a right to demand and expect this; the law also requires
it. Specifically, the law requires all unions to be run democratically,
for members to have a voice in running the union, and for the periodic
election of union officers to be done through secret ballot. Another
positive development for union democracy involves the significant number
of women, and men of color who are joining unions.
Q: What should people keep in mind on Labor Day?
A: Labor Day is a time to celebrate and recognize the
contributions of workers and their organizations. In particular, it's
important to remember the significant role of labor unions in this
nation's political process and in the formation of public policy. For
example, in the area of employment law, organized labor has played a
vital and strategic role in the enactment of legislation involving
wage/hour protections and improvements; family and medical leave rights;
occupational health and safety; human rights, equal opportunity and
protections against employment discrimination; collective bargaining and
the right to organize; whistleblower protections; workers' compensation;
and unemployment insurance. Passage of laws in these areas benefit both
organized and unorganized employees. In addition, by raising the
standard of living for those working in the U.S., these statutes have
served to improve the economy and quality of life in the nation.