Senate passes suite of bills to protect Maine workers in initial party-line vote
AUGUSTA— The Maine Senate approved a suite of bills sponsored by Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, Sen. Mark Lawrence, D-Eliot, and Sen. Linda Sanborn, D-Gorham, that would support and protect working Mainers, in an initial, party-line vote on Wednesday.
“Hardworking Mainers deserve basic protections against wage theft and unsafe work environments,” said President Jackson. “While many employers seek to do right by their workers, bad actors who have consistently used and abused their employees ought to be penalized. We owe it to our constituents to stand up for working people.”
The first bill from President Jackson – LD 1524, “An Act To Prevent Wage Theft and Promote Employer Accountability” – aims to protect Maine workers from wage thefts by allowing for injunctive relief and cease operations orders. These remedies are in addition to any existing penalties. Wage theft occurs when wages are not fully or timely paid; when workers are short-changed at the end of their employment; when workers are forced into unfair agreements; and when workers lose deserved fringe benefits. This bill is narrowly written to end harmful practices from employers with a history of violations as opposed to minor payroll mistakes.
Sen. Sanborn’s bill – LD 1386, “An Act Regarding the Determination of the Prevailing Wage Rate for Public Works Projects” – improves how the state determines prevailing wages to ensure that Maine workers are paid fairly when taxpayer dollars are used on public works projects.
“Ensuring fair wages on construction projects is an issue of basic fairness,” said Sen. Sanborn. “I’m so pleased that this bill, which will promote clarity and fairness in the process of determining a prevailing wage, has passed with such strong support.”
The bill improves the accuracy of the current prevailing wage survey by changing the date in which the survey is administered to better reflect rates and increasing the fine for businesses that fail to participate to encourage participation.
President Jackson’s bill – LD 1658, “An Act To Clarify Prevailing Wage Rates on State Projects Using Federal Funds” – would ensure that the state pays fair wages when spending taxpayer money on public projects. When the state doesn’t use prevailing wages, it depresses wages across the entire industry.
Finally, both Pres. Jackson and Sen. Lawrence have bills to protect public sector employees.
Sen. Lawrence’s bill – LD 1546, “An Act To Protect State Employees When Their Contracts Have Expired” – addresses loopholes in state law that harm state employees when a collective bargaining agreement expires before the next agreement can be brokered. This bill is particularly important in the event of a state government shutdown or salary freeze.
“Public employees should not have their rights discarded simply because their collective bargaining agreements are in transition,” Said Sen. Lawrence. “LD 1546 anticipates this discrepancy becoming a larger problem for state employees, and by closing this loophole now, it would safeguard the rights of state employees.”
President Jackson’s bill – LD 1620, “An Act To Exclude Collectively Bargained Salary and Job Promotion Increases from the Earnable Compensation Limitation for Retirement Purposes” – ensures public workers don’t get shortchanged for their promotion upon retirement. The bill would require the Maine Public Employees Retirement System to calculate salary increases in retirement wages.
All five bills – LD 1524, LD 1386, LD 1658, LD 1546, and LD 1620 – will now go to the House of Representatives for additional votes before returning to the Senate for enactment.