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4 dead as severe storms hit Houston, TX; Election Protection Program eases access to voting information; surge in solar installations eases energy costs for Missourians; IN makes a splash for Safe Boating Week.

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The Supreme Court rules funding for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is okay, election deniers hold key voting oversight positions in swing states, and North Carolina lawmakers vote to ban people from wearing masks in public.

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Effort continues to ensure state minimum wage for ME farmworkers

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Wednesday, March 27, 2024   

Legislation proposed by Maine Gov. Janet Mills would ensure thousands of farmworkers are eligible to receive the state minimum wage.

Current law requires they be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, compared to the state minimum wage of $14.15.

Cynthia Phinney, president of Maine AFL-CIO, said the bill still lacks protection from excessive forced overtime or the allowance for an unpaid rest break after six hours of work.

"Those are things that other workers are entitled to already and farmworkers are not," Phinney pointed out. "Certainly farmworkers work hard enough."

Phinney noted the legislation would require employers to keep records of their workers' hours and provide them with pay stubs. Some farmers have opposed the increase in wages and overtime protections, saying it could force them to cut workers' hours.

Farmworkers were intentionally excluded from benefits and protections in the National Labor Relations Act, which protects the rights of workers to unionize and collectively bargain. They were also originally exempted from wage and overtime protections in the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

Phinney argued it is time to correct the historical injustice.

"It's not lost on us that they were classifications that included largely workers of color," Phinney observed. "They included domestic workers, farmworkers."

Gov. Mills vetoed previous bills to ensure wage and other protections for farmworkers, only to develop a committee of union organizers, farmers, state agencies and lawmakers to develop the new legislation. If passed by the Legislature, the minimum wage for farmworkers would take effect Sept. 1, peak harvest time for Maine's blueberries and apples.


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