Augusta, ME — Workers in Maine secured a major victory today as Governor Janet Mills signed a budget containing funding for a new paid family and medical leave policy. This win came after the Maine People’s Alliance collected more than 80,000 signatures to qualify a ballot measure on paid leave policy, after which the state legislature took action on this crucial issue in response to voters’ enthusiasm.

The new law guarantees up to 12 weeks of paid leave per year — including medical, caregiving and parental leave — to most private and public sector workers starting May 1, 2026. Maine is now the 13th state to guarantee paid leave to workers. 

“This legislation is a major victory for workers and families in Maine. It also demonstrates the power of the ballot measure process and the importance of preserving direct democracy,” said Kelly Hall, executive director of the Fairness Project. “We applaud the Mainers who collected tens of thousands of signatures to qualify paid leave for the November election, after which state legislators and Governor Mills took action to guarantee this essential benefit for workers. 

“With this win, it should not be overlooked that the ballot measure process not only lets voters pass their own laws. It also allows them to hold their politicians accountable and catalyze progress. The Fairness Project is proud to have collaborated with the Maine People’s Alliance in the long process to get to this point, and we’re looking forward to continuing our work to defend and expand workers’ rights through direct democracy.” 

The Fairness Project has won more than 30 campaigns to pass progressive legislation through ballot measures and has a history of compelling politicians to take action in response to successful signature collection campaigns: 

  • In 2016, the Fairness Project worked with the Lift Up California coalition to collect more than 365,000 signatures for a $15 minimum wage ballot measure. Gov. Jerry Brown and the California legislature subsequently enacted a $15 minimum wage, crediting the initiative qualifying for the ballot.
  • In 2018, the Fairness Project worked with Raise Up Massachusetts on a $15 minimum wage measure. The ballot measure campaign led to the passage of legislation to enact the increase and enact paid family and medical leave. 
  • Also in 2018, the Fairness Project worked with Michigan Time to Care on a ballot measure to provide earned paid sick time to 2 million Michigan workers and protect survivors of sexual and domestic violence. Once the ballot measure qualified with a sufficient number of signatures, the Michigan state legislature adopted the policy.
  • In San Antonio, the Fairness Project worked with local partners to qualify a paid sick leave ballot measure in 2018. The initiative led to the passage of a city ordinance to provide earned paid sick time to more than 350,000 workers.
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