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Legislature Enacts Governor Mills' Farmworker Minimum Wage Bill

Andy O’Brien
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The Maine House voted 77-70 and the Senate voted 23-11 this week to support a bill from Governor Janet Mills that would finally make farmworkers eligible for the state minimum wage (currently at $14.15) and grant them the right to take an action in court if their wages are stolen. The bill now heads to the Governor's desk. The Governor has ten days to sign it, veto it or let it go into law without her signature.

“Farmworkers give us life. They give us food,” said Rep. Nina Milliken (D-Blue Hill). “We have an obligation to support them in their pay and in their right to use the courts if they need help receiving their pay.”

The vote on LD 2273, An Act to Establish a State Minimum Hourly Wage for Agricultural Workers, was largely on party lines with Reps. Jim Dill (D-Old Town), Anne Perry (D-Calais), and Scott Landry (D-Farmington) joining Republicans to oppose the bill. See how your legislators voted here and here.

The Governor developed the bill based on a stakeholder process that involved the Maine AFL-CIO, farmers, state agencies, legislators, legal aid attorneys and others. The Governor established the stakeholder group after vetoing a compromise bill that would have extended minimum wage protections to farmworkers; require a limit of 80 hours of forced overtime in a two-week period; and give them the right to a 30-minute unpaid rest break after six hours.

Republicans proposed an amendment that would have established a $10 per hour sub-minimum wage for piecework like blueberry raking, but it was rejected. Sub-minimum wages are discriminatory and harm workers of all ages.