Governor of Maine. Janet MillsJanet Mills Seven most vulnerable governors at risk of re-election in 2022 Every state’s population center, as visualized by the New York National Guard, deploys medics to long-term care facilities MORE (D) on Friday vetoed a bill that would have allowed farmers in the state to organize, the Portland Press Herald reported.
The proposal called for agricultural workers to be able to organize and negotiate wages, hours and working conditions.
“While this bill is well intentioned, I am concerned that its unintended consequences will discourage the growth of farms in Maine.” Mills wrote in his veto statement.
Maine’s farms are mostly small and family-owned and do not need the same protections as large industrial farms controlled by commercial interests, Mills argued.
She said the bill “would subject our farmers to a complicated new set of laws that would require them to hire lawyers just to figure it out.”
The Maine AFL-CIO union criticized Mills’ decision, saying the bill would protect farm workers from abuses such as sexual harassment and wage theft.
“Farmers provide the most essential service to our communities by growing, harvesting and processing the food we eat every day. They do back-breaking work and are among the most exploited workers in our country ”, said the executive director of the AFL-CIO of Maine Matt Schlobohm.
The AFL-CIO said the lack of union rights among farm workers is the result of long-standing racism and does not protect workers of color.
“This bill would have advanced racial justice and corrected a long-standing injustice,” Schlobohm said.
Certain agricultural associations opposed to the draft law on unionization while still being debated in the Maine Legislature. The Maine Vegetable and Berry Growers Association and the Maine Potato Board both accepted Mills’ decision to veto the bill.
“Legislation that would restrict the ability to plant, care for and harvest our crops would endanger the livelihoods of Maine farmers and the workers who depend on the jobs provided by Maine farms,” the Maine Potato Board said in a press release released after the decision.
Maine is the only producer of wild blueberries in the United States. The state also produces potatoes and maple syrup, and is home to large dairy farms as well as smaller livestock farms.