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    Friday, June 21, 2024

    Maine governor vetoes bill to create a minimum wage for agricultural workers

    FILE - Democratic Gov. Janet Mills delivers her State of the State address, Jan. 30, 2024, at the State House in Augusta, Maine. Mills vetoed on Tuesday, April 23, 2024, a bill to establish a minimum hourly wage for agricultural workers that she initially submitted herself. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)

    Portland, Maine — Maine's Democratic governor vetoed on Tuesday a bill to establish a minimum hourly wage for agricultural workers that she initially submitted herself.

    Gov. Janet Mills proposed setting the minimum wage for farm workers at $14.15 per hour. That is the same as the state's minimum wage for non-tipped employees.

    The proposal passed the Maine Legislature and appeared headed for enactment. However, Mills vetoed the proposal over changes lawmakers made to the legislation prior to passing it.

    Mills said lawmakers amended the bill to allow for privately initiated litigation. She said in her veto message that she preferred to allow the Maine Department of Labor to handle possible violations.

    Mills said in her message that she “did not want to veto this bill” but felt left with no recourse.

    “I do not believe Maine farmers should face the prospect of privately initiated lawsuits, which would almost certainly lead to losing more farms in the long run,” Mills said.

    She added that only two other states in New England, Connecticut and Massachusetts, have initiated state minimum wages for farmworkers. About half the states in total have a minimum wage for agricultural work. Mills also said nearly all farms in Maine already pay their workers the state minimum wage.

    Lawmakers will have the ability to try to overturn the veto with a two-thirds majority vote. The bill did not receive that wide of a margin when it passed earlier this month. The House of Representatives passed it by only a few votes.

    The proposal had the support of some farming organizations in the state and was backed by labor groups. Mills pointed out that some farming organizations that had opposed a drive for an agricultural minimum wage last year supported it this time around.

    “Governor Mills’ veto sends a clear message to farmworkers that they are of second-class status and are not worthy of the same rights and protections other workers enjoy," said Matt Schlobohm, Maine AFL-CIO Executive Director.

    Among the farm groups that supported the proposal was the Maine Dairy Industry Association.

    “The individuals who farm alongside some of us are absolutely vital to our farm and families way of life,” Annie Watson, vice president of the association, said in testimony in March.

    FILE- In this Sept. 10, 2018, file photo corn plants shoot out of a forage harvester as a farmer works to get some of his 50 acres harvested before impending rain in Brunswick, Maine. Maine's Democratic governor vetoed on Tuesday, April 23, 2024, a bill to establish a minimum hourly wage for agricultural workers that she initially submitted herself. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)
    FILE - The Maine State House is seen at sunrise, March 16, 2023, in Augusta, Maine. Maine's Democratic governor vetoed on Tuesday, April 23, 2024, a bill to establish a minimum hourly wage for agricultural workers that she initially submitted herself. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)

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