Right to strike response

The BDN editorial on the right to strike bill omits an important fact. Last year, teachers’ strikes in several states were very successful.

Without them, teachers would not have won wage increases and other benefits. They had tried for years to get these changes. Strikes happen when all else fails.

Threats of strikes can be an important bargaining, too. Low wages have undermined teachers for a long time.

Years ago in Fargo, North Dakota, a friend of mine walked into a Ford dealer, pointed to a Thunderbird, and said “I’ll take it.” The dealer, knowing she was a teacher, handed her the keys. Today, it feels like teachers can afford only a used Fiesta or Focus.

Peg Cruikshank


Safer chemicals policy

As a professor teaching public health courses at Colby College, I am aware of what science shows us about the health hazards that toxic chemicals in food packaging pose to people. I’m writing to express my support for LD 1433, which would phase out toxic phthalates and PFAS chemicals from food packaging in Maine.

Hundreds of epidemiological studies link phthalate exposure to health problems, particularly reproductive defects in baby boys, premature puberty in girls and increased risk of reproductive and metabolic disorders in adults.

Older “long-chain” PFAS chemicals are well-known to be persistent and toxic with a wide range of health impacts, including high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease and testicular and kidney cancers. Newer “short-chain” PFAS are of equivalent concern because they are also persistent, readily contaminate soil and water, are difficult to remove from drinking water, and show evidence of toxicity.

Human exposure may be reduced by restricting specific toxic chemicals, which is a good thing, but then we become contaminated with the chemicals chosen as substitutes. Manufacturers tell us that the substitutes are safer and we have nothing to worry about, but inevitably similar health and environmental concerns arise after we’ve already been exposed. So, we end up back where we started.

The common-sense approach to protect public health is to ban food packaging that contains any of these chemicals. History tells us this is the right approach, and there is no better place to enact this restriction than Maine, a national leader in safer chemicals policies.

Gail Carlson, Ph.D.


Expand apprenticeships to build workforce

To become a hairdresser in the state of Maine, you must be at least 17 years old, complete a 1,500-hour course of instruction at a registered institution or undertake 2,500 apprenticeship hours, pass a licensing exam, and pay a yearly licensing fee of $20.

I believe the Maine Legislature should take another look at these requirements, especially since it only takes 133 hours to become a basic EMT. That’s why I recently presented LD 890, a bill to expand access to licensure in certain occupations.

While Maine has made progress in removing unnecessary barriers to employment, we still have a long way to go to ensure that our occupational licensing requirements are equitable and appropriate.

Maine’s Office of Professional and Occupational Regulation was established for the sole purpose of preventing harm to the public through licensing qualified individuals. In other words, the state’s obligation is not to ensure an aesthetically pleasing haircut, but a safe one.

It has been decades since the hourly stipulation for cosmetology licensure has been considered. Maine can become a leader in restructuring what may be overly-burdensome requirements of a student apprentice.

Up-and-coming workers benefit from expanded apprenticeship opportunities because they can “earn while they learn” and are able to begin their career saddled with little or no student loan debt.

For many, apprenticing can be the most viable way to enter the workforce. In Maine, through LD 890, we have an opportunity to make this pathway more available.

Sen. Lisa Keim


Tolerance for all faiths

I am deeply saddened by all the recent attacks on houses of worship, some of them done in the name of God. The God I worship is loving and accepting of everyone, regardless of denomination or faith choice. Decades ago, I was privileged to attend an examination of a candidate for ordination by the United Church of Christ. She made a statement I’ve never forgotten: That Christianity is one window through which we see God, but it is not the only window.

We must be tolerant of all who believe in God. Examination will reveal we have much in common, and we should build on the similarities to achieve a world of acceptance and peaceful co-existence.

Diana Richardson