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Maine Senators having second thoughts over bill that would exempt DeCoster Egg Farms from laws that protect employees

Earlier this month, the Maine Senate Labor Committee voted to exempt DeCoster Egg Farms from Maine laws that require employers to pay employees a minimum wage, time-and-a-half for overtime, and allow them to form a union. Some of the Senators that voted to exempt DeCoster Egg Farms are reportedly having second thoughts. Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee Chairman Chris Rector (R-Thomaston) has told the Republican Senate leadership that, while he voted to exempt DeCoster Egg Farms in his committee, he has subsequently learned more about DeCoster Egg Farms which has convinced him to change his mind. “It is rare that I don’t feel solid with my decisions, but if there was ever a situation where workers should have an opportunity to organize, this is it,” said Rector. Dana Dow (R-Waldoboro) is also having second thoughts about voting to exempt DeCoster Egg Farms. “To tell you the truth, and I haven’t said this before, if the workers there, if they had a union, they wouldn’t have had the problems they did,” said Dow, stressing that unions weren’t just about salary. “In this case, I’m talking about safety, safety, safety,” Dow said.

During a Senate hearing in April, former Maine Attorney General James Tierney testified that “for at least forty years, DeCoster Egg Farms has been a habitual violator of federal and state laws dealing with labor, immigration, safety, animal cruelty, environment and health.” According to news reports, “DeCoster has also been synonymous with labor violations that include hiring 11-year-olds and a 9-year-old, recruiting and hiring illegal immigrants and helping them get fake working papers and improper removal of asbestos from barns. And that is just the beginning.”

The bill being considered is L.D. 1207.