Maine legislators will soon take up proposals to cut General Assistance for asylum seekers and other immigrants. For many immigrants who have come to Maine to find safety and escape persecution, General Assistance is the only lifeline they receive while they navigate a broken immigration system and wait for permission to work. Cutting General Assistance and other vital programs will force Maine families to go without food or shelter.

ENOUGH! Lies and scare tactics directed towards immigrants are the driving force behind policies that hurt everyone: families, women, workers, teachers, students, people with low incomes, and many others. Hundreds of Mainers will come together on Thursday, May 21st to stand against divisive policies and rhetoric that hurt our neighbors. Please stand with us!

Join with us to stop proposals that would leave Mainers without food and shelter.

Thursday, May 21st

5:30 PM: Meet to MARCH in Lincoln Park  (Located at the corner of Pearl & Congress Streets)

6:00 PM: RALLY in Monument Square (Congress St. across from the Portland Public Library)

NOTE: If you are coming from Lewiston/Auburn, there will be two buses leaving from 110 Canal Street ( The buses will board at 3:30 pm in the parking lot behind United Somali Women of Maine (265 Lisbon St.). It’s the old Camden National bank parking lot on Canal Street between Chestnut and Pine Streets.

Share the event on Facebook at

Who should attend:
immigrants, workers, business owners, women, teachers, parents, students, people of faith… ALL OF US.

We believe in a Maine that works for everyone!

Can’t get to the rally, but still want to help? There’s a lot we need to do to stop these proposals. Contact Kathy at 207-622-0851 x3 or

Sponsoring Organizations (in progress):

Maine Immigrants’ Rights Coalition Member Organizations: ACLU of Maine, African Immigrant Association, Angolan Community Association of Maine, Beth Ha’am Synagogue-Social Action Committee, Burundi Community Association of Maine, Catholic Charities Maine Refugee & Immigration Services, Centro Latino de Maine, Community Financial Literacy, Congolese Community of Maine, Cumberland Legal Aid Clinic, Refugee and Human Rights Program, Dijibouti Community Service (Lewiston), First Parish Faith in Action Committee, Frannie Peabody Center, Hope Acts, Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project, Light Mission Church, Mahoro Maine Association, Maine Access Immigrant Network, Maine Association for New Americans, Maine Council of Churches, Maine Equal Justice Partners, Maine People’s Alliance/Maine People’s Resource Center, Maine Women’s Lobby, Mano en Mano / Hand in Hand, NAACP, New Mainers Resource Center, New Mainers Tenants’ Association, Portland Diocese, RCAM (Rwandese Community Association of Maine), Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, Somali Bantu Youth Association of Maine, Southern Maine Workers Center, Welcoming Immigrants Network; Living with Peace; Maine Voices; Portland Racial Justice Congress; Preble Street; United Somali Women of Maine


Right now our Director of Public Policy is at a public hearing in the Judiciary Committee to testify in opposition to two bills that would restrict access to abortion care in our state: LD 83 & LD 1312.

Yesterday we testified against multiple bills that would make it harder for Maine families living in poverty to get the aid they need to meet their basic needs. And we testified in support of a bill that would build a bridge to opportunity for thousands of families trying to get back on their feet.

Tomorrow we’ll testify in support of a bill that would help make sure victims of sexual assault, stalking, and domestic violence don’t have to also worry about losing their housing because of the actions of their abuser.

Please support this vital work today!

Every day we are speaking to policy-makers, the media, and Mainers across our state to make a better future for women and girls. But we can’t do it alone.

That’s why we launched the Right Now campaign to raise $20,000 before the legislature adjourns this summer. Thanks to our generous supporters, we’re almost half-way to our goal. Can you help us get even closer today? You can make your Right Now gift online at or call us at 207-622-0851 x2.

Want to know when to take action on the issues that matter to you? Be sure you get our action alerts & e-news right in your inbox by subscribing at, and follow us on Facebook & Twitter, too.


Thank you for your support,

Eliza, Danna, Kathy, & Molly


P.S.  Listen online to the public hearing on LD 83 & LD 1312 at or use the hashtags #mewomen #mepolitics to follow the public hearing on Twitter.

P.P.S. Click the links to read our testimony in opposition to LD 83 & LD 1312.


Eliza Townsend, Executive Director of the Maine Women’s Lobby, issued the following statement in response to the Portland Finance Committee’s decision to weaken the mayor’s proposal to raise the city’s minimum wage:

We are extremely disappointed in the lack of leadership shown tonight by the members of the Portland Finance Committee who voted to amend and weaken the mayor’s proposed minimum wage increase. We are, however, grateful for the support expressed by Councilor Jon Hinck for the mayor’s proposal, which would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 in January 2016 and index the minimum wage to inflation after 2017. The mayor’s proposal should have been voted affirmatively out of committee and sent to the full council months ago. The amendments that weakened the proposal and passed the committee would seriously impact the economic security of working families.

The Finance Committee has failed the working people of Portland. We will continue to shine a spotlight on the need for a higher minimum wage and hope that the full council shows stronger leadership. The rest of the council still has a chance to ensure that Portland’s workers get the raise they so desperately need and deserve.  

For our communities and economy to prosper, all jobs need to pay at least enough to meet working families’ basic needs. When our neighbors can’t afford to buy food, pay for a place to live, or cover basic medical care, it hurts our whole city. When we raise the basic wage that workers can make, we boost our economy by saving on public assistance costs and making sure all workers have money to spend locally—this strengthens the economy for us all.

Over and over again, the committee heard from workers who are struggling to meet their basic needs as the costs for food, heat, and housing continue to grow. Portland is the economic engine of our state. Adopting the mayor’s proposal to raise the minimum wage from $7.50 to $9.50 in 2015, to $10.10 in 2016, and to $10.68 in 2017, then indexing the minimum wage to inflation going forward from 2017, and including a raise for tipped workers would not hurt the city. Instead it would help stimulate the local economy while also showing Portland’s low-wage workers that they are valued members of our community.

The weakening of the proposal is particularly troubling to those of us who are concerned with the economic security of Maine women. More than six in ten minimum wage workers in our state are women and more than 70% of tipped workers are women. We know that when women thrive, our communities thrive. A meaningful increase in the minimum wage for all workers is an important part of building pathways to prosperity for Portland’s families.


The Maine Women’s Lobby advocates on behalf of Maine’s 678,000 women and girls, focusing on freedom from violence, freedom from discrimination, access to health care, and economic security. 

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As we end Women’s History Month, we thought we’d share some words of inspiration that help fuel our work. This quote from Audre Lorde is one that often comes to mind: “When I dare to be powerful—to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” What words help inspire your advocacy? Send them to us at or share them with us on Facebook and Twitter. We’ll post them over the next few weeks so everyone can be motivated by them, too.


Mark Your Calendar

There are several upcoming opportunities to learn more about why we’re working to pass a bill to help strengthen the Kid Safe Products Act: LD 948, sponsored by Rep. Sara Gideon with bipartisan support. There will be three screenings of the HBO documentary Toxic Hot Seat, which shows how chemical companies hide the risks to us all by misrepresenting chemical safety data and using their influence with legislators to keep policy reforms from passing. It also looks at the work our own state did in passing legislation that addressed the dangers of certain flame retardants. Each screening will be followed by a panel discussing how we can make a difference here in Maine. These screenings are free and open to everyone, but if you can let us know you are planning to attend by signing up here, it will help us know how many people to expect.

Toxic Hot Seat Screening in Farmington

Tuesday, April 7

6:00 – 8:00 PM, Doors Open at 5:30 PM

Farmington Public Library

117 Academy St., Farmington


Toxic Hot Seat Screening in Lewiston

Thursday, April 16

5:30 – 7:30 PM, Doors Open at 5:00 PM

The Patrick Dempsey Center

29 Lowell St., 5th Floor, Lewiston


Toxic Hot Seat Screening in Northport

Monday, April 27

6:30 – 8:30 PM, Doors Open at 6:15

Point Lookout

67 Atlantic Highway, Northport



In Building a Prosperous Maine, we laid out a roadmap to economic security for women and our families. On October 16th, we’ll come together to turn those ideas into action. We hope you’ll be able to be part of this energizing day with like-minded opinion leaders from across the state as we hear from thought-provoking speakers, participate in interactive workshops, and take advantage of opportunities to build our skills.

Maine Women’s Summit on Economic Security

Friday, October 16

Augusta Civic Center

Here’s a peek at one of our speakers: Caroline Frederickson, author of the upcoming book Under the Bus: How Working Women Are Being Run Over:

  • Women make up 53% of low-wage workforce or “working poor,” defined as persons who spent at least twenty-seven weeks in the labor force but whose incomes fell below the official poverty level.
  • Women are 63% of minimum-wage workers.
  • Mid-wage jobs constitute 60% of jobs lost during the 2008 recession, but only a little more than 20% of those created during recovery.
  • By contrast, low-wage jobs were 21% of jobs lost during the recession but close to 60% of new jobs created since.
  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 11% of the workforce has paid leave.
  • Today the National Labor Relations Act still excludes domestic workers and farm laborers, and the Fair Labor Standards Act does not require overtime for farm workers or minimum wage or overtime for many domestic workers.

Caroline Fredrickson is the president of the American Constitution Society (ACS) and a senior fellow at Demos. She has been widely published on a range of legal and constitutional issues and is a frequent guest on television and radio shows. Before joining ACS, Fredrickson served as the director of the ACLU’s Washington legislative office and as general counsel and legal director of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

We’ll be sharing more details soon.


19th Annual Girls’ Day at the State House is a Success

“Thank you for teaching me how to become a leader. I really enjoyed today.” -Morgan, Mars Hill

Morgan’s words sum up so many of the comments we received from this year’s participants in Girls’ Day at the State House. 106 eighth grade girls from across the state—Fort Kent to North Berwick, Rangeley to Calais, and towns everywhere in between—came to Augusta to learn about how policies affect their lives and bills become laws while strengthening their leadership skills.







Many thanks to our generous sponsors who helped make the day a success:


Margaret E. Burnham Charitable Trust

Morton-Kelly Charitable Trust

Virginia Hodgkins Somers Foundation


Maine Education Association


Business and Professional Women of Maine

Law Offices of Joe Bornstein

Lee Auto Malls

Planned Parenthood of Northern New England


Karen Wagner McGrady


Updates from the Legislative Session

The legislative session is going strong and we’ve been busy testifying at public hearings, attending work sessions, and talking with lawmakers about a range of issues in all of our focus areas: freedom from violence, freedom from discrimination, access to health care, and economic security. We wrote about some of the bills we’re working on in both our January and February newsletters, which you can read on our blog at and Over the next few months, there will be many ways that you can help—from talking with your legislators to writing letters to the editor in your local paper, and much more. To help make sure we know when to contact you to let you know about action you can take, please take a few minutes to complete this brief survey:

Last week, we participated in a press conference announcing a new name and mission for the coalition that was previously known as the Maine Choice Coalition. The coalition has adopted a broader lens based on the reproductive justice movement, which emerged in the mid-nineties at a Black women’s caucus. (Learn more in this What is RJ primer from SisterSong.) The coalition’s new name is the Maine Alliance for Reproductive Freedom.

The Maine Alliance for Reproductive Freedom is a coalition of organizations and individuals working together to ensure that all Mainers have access to abortion and have the economic, social and political power and resources to make their own decisions about their bodies, sexuality, reproductive health, and families. The Coalition brings together members who are committed to reproductive health, reproductive rights, and reproductive justice with the purpose of coordinating and strategizing on legislative and legal advocacy, community organizing, and public education.

Some of the legislative priorities discussed at the press conference are described in these two news stories: 2 Reproductive Rights Bills Maine Should Turn Into Law—And One It Absolutely Shouldn’t, and Pro-choice activists worry new bills would restrict abortion access. This story from MPBN covers last week’s public hearing on LD 319, which would expand access to contraception and other reproductive health care while also saving taxpayer dollars: Abortion Opponents Object to Bill Aimed at Expanding Access to Reproductive Care.


Fighting for Higher Wages in Portland

Last fall, Portland Mayor Michael Brennan put forward a proposal to increase the city’s minimum wage from $7.50 to $9.50 in 2015, to $10.10 in 2016, and to $10.68 in 2017. It will also index the minimum wage to inflation going forward from 2017. Unfortunately, the Finance Committee has been very slow to take action on this proposal. Earlier this month, our executive director Eliza Townsend wrote an op-ed with Sailor Cartwright of the Southern Maine Workers Center urging the committee to stop delaying because too much time has already passed. Read Portland City Council committee should stop stalling and vote on minimum wage here: Since then, the Portland Press Herald has also called for Portland to move forward on the proposal in this editorial: Portland should act on higher minimum wage at

We hope the Finance Committee will listen and positive action on the proposal soon. At that point we’ll be calling on the whole City Council to swiftly vote in support of the proposal because Portland’s working families shouldn’t have to wait longer for the raise they very much need and deserve. If you live in Portland, you can lend your voice to ours by contacting your city councilors and letting them know why you support the city being a leader by raising the minimum wage. You can find the councilors’ contact information at


More Support for Family Friendly Workplace Policies

Tomorrow the White House will kick-off the Lead on Leave tour in Seattle. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez and White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett will be visiting states across the country to bring attention to the needs of workers who are struggling to balance their responsibilities both at home and at work. The Unites States is one of only two nations in the world (the other is Papua New Guinea) that does not ensure any family leave, and over 43 million Americans cannot earn even a single paid sick day. States and municipalities have begun to pass laws to address these issues, but ideally we need federal action. Read more about Lead on Leave in this New York Times blog post: The White House and Paid Leave: Let Flowers Bloom at, and this Washington Post piece: Perez, Jarrett to take paid-leave show on the road starting April 1 at  And these recent posts by Wendy Chun-Hoon and Ellen Bravo of Family Values @ Work explain more about the need for paid family leave and earned paid sick days: Closing the Equality Gap in the Workplace, and Don’t Wait for an Ebola Outbreak to Pass Paid Sick Days.

There was surprise support for paid sick days shown by the U.S. Senate last week when 16 Republican senators joined with the Democrats to pass Sen. Patty Murray’s budget amendment to establish a deficit-neutral reserve fund for legislation to allow Americans to earn paid sick time. Both Maine Senators Collins and King supported the amendment. You can read In surprise show of support, filibuster-proof Senate majority backs paid sick leave in the Washington Post, and Every Republican Running for President Votes Against Paid Sick Leave; It Passes Anyway at BloombergPolitics to learn more.

Even though the budget vote is non-binding, it is important to let our Senators know that we appreciate their vote in support of paid sick days. To thank Senator Collins and Senator King for voting to pass Sen. Murray’s budget amendment, call or email them this week.

Sen. Collins: 202-224-2523; Sen. King: 202-224-5344


Your Support Matters

Numerous policy decisions will be made this year at the local, state, and federal level that will affect our lives. It’s vital that the Maine Women’s Lobby be here to make sure the voice of Maine women is heard by our lawmakers when they are casting votes on those policies. That’s why we hope you’ll consider making a membership gift today.

When you make a gift of $35, $60, $100, or more, you help make sure we are in the halls of the statehouse and beyond when policy decisions are made. This year, your gift will help us engage women in communities across the state on the issues that matter most to their lives. You will help us educate and raise awareness with lawmakers and the media about women’s economic security, access to a full range of health care services, ending violence, and creating a future without discrimination.

Make your donation online at


Connect with Us

Make sure you never miss the latest news by following us on Facebook and Twitter.

Is there a particular legislative issue that you want to be involved with? Make sure we know by completing our survey at or by contacting Molly at 207-622-0851 x2 or

If you have any questions about the issues and events in this edition of News from the Maine Women’s Lobby, feel free to contact Kathy at 207-622-0851 x3 or We love to hear from you!

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We didn’t let the snow or cold slow us down this month because the legislative session was heating up and we had so much to do. With winter fully upon us, these words by Louisa May Alcott come to mind: “Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.” The sunshine may seem far away at times, but even in winter it shines. We’ll believe in a future where all women and girls can live our lives free from violence and discrimination, with access to a full range of health care, and real economic security. And with your help, that future won’t be too far away.


As the 127th Legislative Session proceeds, more bills are being printed, public hearings are being held, and we’re having lots of conversations with legislators about issues that matter to Maine women and our families. Following are some of the issues we’re working on now. If you’d like to help us on these or other issues, let us know by completing the MWL Interest Form at

The Budget

A major focus of this session is the governor’s proposed budget. The Appropriations Committee has been holding joint hearings with other committees as the committee members examine the many aspects of the budget. In the first week of March, we’ll be testifying on areas of the budget affecting immigrants and early childhood programs. You’ve probably read that the governor has been trying to cut programs that provide vital assistance to asylum seekers in Maine—programs like General Assistance, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and SNAP (also known as food stamps). On Feb. 3rd, Gov. LePage further attacked immigrants when he made offensive and misleading remarks about immigrants in his State of the State address. Both thePortland Press Herald and Bangor Daily News wrote about the facts that show the data doesn’t support the governor’s remarks.

Maine’s immigrants are an important part of our state’s economic future. While we should be working to support new Mainers, the governor’s proposed budget would eliminate benefits for lawfully present immigrants and their families. Asylum seekers come to the U.S. because they are fleeing persecution and violence. They have to wait a minimum of six months and often much longer before they are legally allowed to work. Programs like GA, TANF, and SNAP provide support for housing, food, heat, and medicine for asylum seekers and their families. Denying these basic necessities goes against the values of Maine people.

It’s just common sense that investing in early childhood programs is investing in our future. The first five years of a child’s life are critical in shaping the architecture of the brain. Early childhood programs provide children with a foundation for academic success as well as long term social and emotional benefits. And home visiting programs support new parents in understanding their child’s developmental and physical needs. In addition to the benefits to Maine children, studies show that our state will see savings in remedial education, health, and corrections spending.  It’s imperative that we provide adequate funding for these programs in the budget.

Other Legislation

Last month we told you about some of the bills we will be focused on passing or defeating this year. If you missed our January News, you can read it on our blog here. This month we’re writing about some bills that will come up soon. On Thursday, the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence and the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault spoke at a press conference with legislators from both sides of the political aisle about a bill that would criminalize nonconsensual pornography, also known as revenge porn. An Act to Prohibit the Unauthorized Distribution of Certain Private Images sponsored by Rep. Fredette (R-Newport) with bipartisan support, would make it illegal to distribute explicit material if the identifiable people in the material haven’t consented to its distribution. Nationally, 93% of victims of revenge porn have suffered significant emotional distress, and 49% have been harassed or stalked online by those who had seen their material.

We’ll also be working on a variety of bills that affect women’s economic security. We’ll be supporting bills that would increase the minimum wage, protect workers from unfair scheduling practices, eliminate the tipped minimum wage, and much more. Are these issues that matter to you? Let us know by completing our online interest And keep your eyes on your inbox because we’ll be asking for your help as these and many other bills move through the legislative process.


19th Annual Girls’ Day at the State House

Thursday, March 5th

This annual event brings together 100 eighth grade girls from across the state to Augusta to learn about women’s leadership and how policy decisions that affect our lives are made.

Hardy Girls Healthy Women Parenting Webinar Series

Wednesday, March 11th

We’ll discuss best practices, tools, tips, and techniques to help with activism for legislation, the media, and in your community. Learn more at


Maine Alliance for Reproductive Freedom Lobby Day

Monday, March 30th

Join us at the Maine State House for a day focused on the reproductive justice issues we’re working on at the legislature this year.

Maine Women’s Summit on Economic Security

Friday, October 16th

Augusta Civic Center

Stay tuned for more details.


This month we celebrated the 22nd Anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act, the law that provided American workers with up to 12 weeks unpaid leave. It was a landmark piece of legislation when President Clinton signed it into law, but as we heard President Obama say during his State of the Union address last month, America lags behind almost every country on the planet when it comes to offering paid maternity leave. We need to make sure that everyone has access to paid family & medical leave so that we can all meet our responsibilities both at home and at work. Whether it is taking care of a new child, a loved one with a serious medical problem, or recovering from an illness ourselves, most workers can’t afford to take leave under FMLA because we can’t afford to take unpaid leave. Read more about paid leave in Family Leave: A View from the Future from our national partners at Family Values @ Work.

And the same is true for the millions of workers—mostly those working in hands-on jobs like food service, retail, childcare, and elder care—who can’t earn even a single paid sick day. No one should have to choose between a paycheck and staying home to get well when they have the flu or need to care for a sick child. It’s not only good for workers and their families; it’s good for business, too. That’s why more and more cities and states across the country are passing legislation to expand access to earned paid sick days.

We’re part of the Family Values @ Work coalition because we know how important it is for all workers to have access to paid family & medical leave and paid sick days. There are two bills that have been proposed in Congress to make these issues a reality: The Family And Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act and the Healthy Families Act (HFA). If you want to help work on these issues, go to to let us know.


Next week, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in King v. Burwell. This case will decide whether people can continue receiving premium tax credits for health coverage purchased through the federally-run health insurance Marketplaces. Women and our families have a lot at stake. Because we earn lower wages than men, suffer from higher rates of poverty, are less likely to be offered health insurance on the job, nearly seven million women—including 33,700 women in Maine—will no longer be able to afford health care if the court makes a negative decision in this case. That’s why the Maine Women’s Lobby signed onto an amicus brief in the King v. Burwell case.

According to the National Women’s Law Center:

  • An estimated 2.5 million low and middle-income women who hold health coverage through the federally-facilitated marketplaces in their states could lose eligibility for premium tax credits. On average, these tax credits cover three-quarters of their health insurance premiums.
  • Nearly 7 million women — including many who have not yet enrolled in coverage — could lose eligibility for tax credits, simply because they live in states that rely on the federal government to run their health insurance marketplace.
  • Approximately 3.5 million women — that is, half of all women who could lose tax credit eligibility —are women of color.

It’s frustrating to see the Affordable Care Act under yet another attack because it is working for Maine people. And it is important to note that while the Supreme Court is considering the King v. Burwell case, there is no risk to your tax credits. For more information about health care coverage in our state, check out Maine Consumers for Affordable Health Care.


We have talked a lot about the importance of raising the minimum wage as a key tool for increasing financial security for Maine women and our families. Just a few facts about who is affected:

  • In Maine, more than 6 in 10 minimum wage workers are women.
  • 85% of Maine workers who would be impacted by raising the minimum wage are over 20 years old.
  • More than 75% of women over the age of 16, and 62% of women over the age of 25 who earn the minimum wage do not have a spouse’s income to supplement their own.

That’s why last year we were happy to see that Portland was considering raising the city’s minimum wage. The Finance Committee will again consider the proposed wage increase in March. If you want to see a positive change for low-wage workers in Portland, we need your support. If you live in or own a business in Portland and would like to help, contact Kathy at 207-622-0851 x3 or

President Obama spoke about the need for a higher minimum wage during his State of the Union address when he said, “If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, try it.  If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise.” Here in Maine, in addition to Portland, Bangor City Councilor Joe Baldacci has proposed a minimum wage increase, and the Maine Legislature will be considering legislation to raise the state’s minimum wage. Visit to let us know about your interest in this and other economic security issues.




It’s impossible for us to share all our news in our monthly newsletter—so much is always happening. But you can get even more updates by following us on Facebook and Twitter. Is there a particular legislative issue that you want to be involved with? Make sure we know by completing our survey at or by contacting Molly at 207-622-0851 x2 or

The only way we’re able to do so much in our four focus areas—freedom from violence, freedom from discrimination, access to health care, and economic security—is with the support of our members. When you make a membership gift of $35, $60, $100, or more, you help ensure that we are at the statehouse and beyond when decisions that affect the lives of Maine women and our families are being made. Make a donation today

If you have any questions about the issues and events in this edition ofNews from the Maine Women’s Lobby, feel free to contact Kathy at 207-622-0851 x3 or We love to hear from you!

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