Maine loggers and wood haulers will have the right to bargain collectively under a bill signed by Gov. Janet Mills on Friday.
LD 1459, “An Act To Expand Application of the Maine Agricultural Marketing and Bargaining Act of 1973 to Harvesters and Haulers of Forest Products,” was sponsored by Maine Senate President Troy Jackson, a fifth-generation logger from Allagash.
Current law allows requires agricultural handlers to bargain in good faith with farmers’ cooperatives. The new measure will extends that right to those who harvest and haul forest products.
The new legislation was welcomed in a statement Friday by the Maine AFL-CIO, which said it will correct a situation where loggers an haulers had been forced to accept unfair contract rates for their services.
“I think this new law can be great tool, but like any tool, if you don’t use it you may as well not have it,” said Stacey Kelly, a wood hauler from northern Aroostook County. “Now it’s up to the people in the logging industry to have the courage to use this tool to come together to support one another, and for once have the chance to make the industry better for working people.”
Dave Sullivan, Grand Lodge representative for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Eastern Territory, noted that loggers and haulers do some of the most difficult and dangerous work and they deserve a fair share of the wealth that they create.
He added: “For too long, these workers have been exploited and mistreated. This law will finally give them the leverage to demand better rates for their labor and safer working conditions,” said Dave Sullivan, Grand Lodge Rep for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Eastern Territory. “The solidarity, perseverance and determination of these workers is an inspiration to us all.”
Matt Schlobohm, Executive Director of the Maine AFL-CIO, which represents 40,000 Maine workers, said the agreement will help fix a “power imbalance” between land owners and individual workers.
“This bill gives loggers and haulers the freedom to band together and bargain for a better life,” he said.