MECEP statement on veto of bill to advance farmworker rights 

Maine Center for Economic Policy is disappointed at Governor Janet Mills’ decision to veto LD 398, “An Act to Make Agricultural Workers and Other Related Workers Employees Under the Wage and Hour Laws,” which would have made agricultural workers eligible for the state’s minimum wage and provide other basic employment protections, including protection from mandatory overtime. The bill passed both houses of the legislature on July 6, but was vetoed by Governor Mills today.

“The veto of this legislation is extremely disappointing” said Arthur Phillips, economic policy analyst with MECEP. “Continuing the current system of sub-minimum wages for farmworkers means that about one quarter of Maine’s agricultural workers will continue to live in poverty. We know that Maine’s economy is strongest when everyone has the means to thrive. The people who produce our food deserve a job that pays them adequately and treats them with dignity. As in the rest of the country, these workers in Maine are disproportionately Black, Latino, and Indigenous, and they are more than four times as likely to live in poverty as other workers. This veto means their second-class status will persist in Maine.”

This is the second time Governor Mills has vetoed legislation that expands protections for farmworkers. In 2022 Mills vetoed legislation that would have expanded collective bargaining rights to agricultural workers. The Labor and Housing Committee voted to carry over other measures which would improve farmworkers’ access to employment rights, including the right to collective action. Those bills will be considered in the legislature’s second session in January.