Today, the Legislature will be voting on
LD 398 An Act to Make Agricultural Workers and Other Related Workers Employees Under the Wage and Hour Laws.
The farm workers of Maine did not request this legislation and do not support it. They know, from their experience in other states, their jobs will be replaced by machines, their hours will be cut, and they will be hurt–not helped– by these changes.
This bill will:
Reclassify farm workers as employees, which:
o Prohibits anyone under the age of 14 from working on a farm
o Increases taxes, fees, and insurance costs for farm owners
o Increased reporting requirements and administrative burden
o Significant increase in legal costs for compliance
o Increases overall labor costs
o Restricts the number of overtime hours an employee can work in a two-week period
o Increases the minimum wage from federal ($7.25 an hour) to the state minimum wage (anticipated to be $15 on January 1, 2024)
o Increases H2A rates
o Requires one hour of paid time off for every 40 hours worked
o Changes the definitions of apprentice and intern, which may change requirements for how they are paid
o Maine Department of Labor will have the authority to come to the farm at any time for inspections and to review payroll
Depending on what legislation passes this session:
May require payment to employees for changes in schedule (LD 1190)
May require flexible schedule (LD 827)
May require payment into and participation in Paid Family and Medical Leave System (LD 1964)
May prohibit employers from penalizing or firing an employee for refusing to attend a mandatory meeting if the employer expresses an opinion about religious or political matters (LD 1756)
Allows for concerted activity, which prohibits employers from reprimanding or firing employees for:
o Conferring with another employee with regard to wages, working conditions, terms of employment or other matters related to their employment;
o Conferring with their employer with regard to wages, working conditions, terms of employment or other matters related to employment;
o Conferring with 3rd parties, including but not limited to representatives of organizations that provide social, economic, health care, legal, educational or other services to agricultural employees; employees of any local, state or governmental unit or agency and employees of any press or media entity; federal governmental unit or agency and employees of any press or media entity;
o Publicizing complaints about wages, working conditions, terms of employment or other matters;
Please urge your legislators to oppose this bill which undermines the ability of Maine’s farmers to stay in business.
This legislation will be a significant financial burden on employers and will put workers out of jobs, not protect them. Farms will become largely mechanized monopolies, instead of the quaint family farms residents and visitors appreciate. The farm workers of Maine did not request this legislation and do not support it.
The bill’s proponents cite the inaccurate narrative that farm workers were excluded from the National Labor Relations Act due to racism. However, historical documents clearly show that the exclusion stemmed from a desire to limit importing food from other countries and to protect family farms.
Please help to protect the 97% of Maine’s farms that are small family farms from the increase in financial burden and serious threat to keeping Maine-grown food affordable for our citizens this legislation creates by calling and emailing your legislators and urging them to vote NO ON LD 398!
It’s time to protect and support Maine farms. What needs to change is Maine’s food system, not the status of agricultural workers. Our food system is so broken, farm owners pay themselves less than minimum wage if they have any income at all, increase their debt load annually, and do it all again the next year while providing food for the health and wellness of their communities, despite the decline in their own health. We should be celebrating their work, not criticizing and penalizing them for the impossible task of competing with international food companies that pay their workers pennies a day.
This bill fails farmworkers and farmers! It makes an already difficult food system worse. This is not the right solution. Let’s take the time to work together to create policy that makes Maine’s food system work better, not harder!