MECEP statement on LD 2273 and LD 525, the farmworker minimum wage and concerted activity bills

AUGUSTA, Maine — Arthur Phillips, policy analyst at the Maine Center for Economic Policy (MECEP), released the following statement in reaction to Governor Mills’s vetoes of LD 2273, a farmworker minimum wage bill she introduced, and LD 525, which would have protected farmworkers’ rights to concerted activity. Arthur was a member of the Governor’s Agricultural Worker Minimum Wage Committee.   

“With these vetoes, Governor Mills has reaffirmed farmworkers’ second-class status in Maine’s economy. After a year of deliberation, with all relevant stakeholders at the table agreeing farmworkers should be guaranteed at least the minimum wage, Governor Mills still chose to veto a bill that would have guaranteed the most basic rights for farmworkers. The primary reason cited for this action was the inclusion of a provision granting farmworkers access to the courts, a right enjoyed by all other workers. People who milk our cows and harvest our food will remain among the most essential yet unprotected workers in our state, without a right to be paid the minimum wage or even receive a pay stub.  

Governor Mills also vetoed a bill that would have protected farmworkers’ right to speak about improving their working conditions. With this veto, farmworkers who seek to address their needs at work remain exposed to discipline, up to and including being fired, for doing so. This is a right which nearly every other private-sector worker enjoys. 

Governor Mills has now vetoed every bill the legislature has placed on her desk to make up for the historic labor law exclusions which have made farmhands perhaps our most vulnerable class of workers. These workers, who are disproportionately people of color and are 4.5 times as likely as others to live in poverty, deserve far better.”