May 23, 2019

AFL-CIO calls off boycott of United Way

PORTLAND — Maine AFL-CIO President Charles O’Leary said Wednesday that he and the United Way have settled a dispute that prompted him to issue what some interpreted as a call for a boycott of the charitable organization.

“There never was a boycott,” Charles O’Leary insisted in a telephone interview from the labor federation’s headquarters in Bangor.

The dispute centered on the firing of Paul Chretien, who worked for the four largest United Way chapters as the AFL-CIO’s liaison under an agreement dating back to the 1980s.

Chretien, who reportedly was fired for taking too many days off, was dismissed by the director of the Bangor chapter without any advance consultation with the AFL-CIO, O’Leary said.

O’Leary responded by issuing a statement declaring that the labor federation was “terminating its support” for the four United Way chapters. But his statement said “we continue to support the human service agencies that receive United Way funding and we encourage our members to do likewise.”

The two sides met for five hours on Tuesday and “agreed to move forward” to settle their differences, O’Leary said.

“It was a very productive, positive meeting,” said Eric Buch, director of the midcoast chapter of the United Way in Bath, which was involved in the talks along with the chapters in Portland, Bangor and Waterville.

O’Leary said the ongoing discussions would include an agreement to resolve Chretien’s status, although the details remained confidential.

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