Maine Governor Vetoes Own Minimum Wage Bill for Farmworkers Over Lawsuit Concerns

Maine Gov. Janet Mills vetoes her own bill to establish a $14.15 minimum wage for farmworkers, citing concerns over allowing workers to sue employers. This move has drawn criticism from labor advocates.

Ebenezer Mensah
Updated On
New Update
Maine Governor Vetoes Own Minimum Wage Bill for Farmworkers Over Lawsuit Concerns

Maine Governor Vetoes Own Minimum Wage Bill for Farmworkers Over Lawsuit Concerns

Maine Governor Janet Mills has vetoed her own proposed bill, LD 2273, which aimed to establish a minimum hourly wage of $14.15 for the state's agricultural workers starting in 2024. Mills expressed concerns over an amendment to the bill that would allow farmworkers to privately initiate lawsuits against their employers over alleged labor law violations.

The bill was originally drafted to guarantee agricultural workers a minimum wage of $14.15 per hour with annual cost-of-living increases, as well as expanded recordkeeping requirements for employers. It was born out of recommendations from the Agricultural Worker Minimum Wage Committee that Mills had formed the previous year.

However, during the committee process, changes were made to the bill, including allowing workers to bring private lawsuits against their employers. Mills said she was "deeply concerned" this would "result in litigation that would simply sap farmers of financial resources and cause them to fail."

While Mills agreed that workers should have the right to pursue recourse for labor violations, she argued that her original bill provided adequate enforcement through the Maine Department of Labor. She stated that she remains supportive of establishing a minimum wage for farmworkers, but believes the Legislature's changes to the bill left her no choice but to veto it.

Why this matters: The veto has been criticized by labor leaders and advocates, who called it an "embarrassment to the state" and a continuation of the exclusion and exploitation of farmworkers, who are disproportionately people of color and among the most essential yet unprotected workers in Maine's economy. The bill will now go back to the Legislature, which will require a two-thirds majority to overturn the governor's veto.

Mills also vetoed another bill, LD 525, that would have given farmworkers the right to discuss wages and engage in other concerted activity. The governor mentioned the various challenges facing Maine's agricultural sector, including severe weather, PFAS contamination, inflation, and price pressures, as reasons for not imposing new regulatory burdens on farmers. Nearly all farms in Maine already pay their workers the state minimum wage, Mills pointed out.

Key Takeaways

  • Maine Gov. Mills vetoed her own bill to establish $14.15 min. wage for farmworkers.
  • Veto due to amendment allowing workers to sue employers over labor law violations.
  • Mills argued lawsuits would financially burden farmers, despite supporting min. wage.
  • Veto criticized by labor advocates as continuing exclusion and exploitation of farmworkers.
  • Mills also vetoed bill giving farmworkers right to discuss wages and organize.