Looking for a politician to inspire voter turnout by blocking workers from unionizing? You know just where to go: Republican Party Central. Right? Yes... but sometimes you find tap-dancing establishment Democrats playing a similar disgraceful game. Meet Maine conservative, Gov. Janet Mills, like Rep. Jared Golden, another version of Susan Collins.
Maine has a healthy progressive state legislature, whose work is thwarted by the state's shitty 74 year old conservative governor from a long past era, putative Democrat Mills. Maine Democrats are going to lose badly this coming November because Mills is so busy trying to show how "centrist" she is that she is not giving the Democratic base any reason to vote except for Democrats being less shitty than Republicans. Her tenure has been the ultimate in lesser-of-two-evils politics. Her opponent is neo-Nazi former governor Paul LePage. It's hard to imagine him winning another term but if anyone can pull that off for him it would be Mills. Even in 2018, in a Democratic wave year, she only managed to draw 50.9% of the vote. The farm workers bill she vetoed yesterday had passed the state House 73-58.
Since then, she is best known for vetoing progressive legislation passed by the legislature. Last June, the Bangor Daily News reported that "vetoed seven bills from this legislative session, including several that were priorities for progressive Democrats in the Legislature. Those among the first seven in 2021 blocked by Gov. Janet Mills include bills to close the Long Creek Youth Development Center, implement a graduated real estate transfer tax and block companies with foreign government ownership from spending to influence ballot questions. Many more vetoes are expected and they come as a blow to several lawmakers and activist groups, which may struggle to find the votes to overturn the governor’s vetoes in most cases, and reflect the divide between Mills and legislative Democrats on a range of issues."
In the midst of a major national revival of union activism, how's this for a headline?
Yesterday, Bangor Daily News reported that the bill she vetoed would have allowed Maine farmworkers to organize and collectively bargain. Her excuse was that "she feared it would discourage the growth of farms."
It marked another standoff between the Democratic governor and a more progressive faction in her party. After Mills vetoed more than a dozen measures in 2021 affecting policy areas from labor to criminal justice, she delayed action for months on the farmworker bill, which was sponsored by Rep. Thom Harnett (D-Gardiner) after it passed the Legislature in mid-July.
Harnett’s bill would allow workers at Maine farms that employ five or more people to collectively bargain, also governing mediation processes and enforcement terms. It was aimed at closing exceptions in state and federal labor law for farmworkers, who are generally not covered by Maine’s minimum wage and overtime laws.
...Labor groups aligned with Harnett, a retired assistant attorney general who worked under Mills when she was the state’s top attorney. He was also a migrant worker aid lawyer in New York in the 1980s, saying in April testimony that these types of exemptions from labor laws perpetuate institutional racism. On Friday, he said Mills’ veto letter places all of the burden on workers.
“While I’m disappointed for myself as a legislator, that pales in comparison to the disappointment I have for the hardworking men and women who toil long hours to feed us,” Harnett said.
Farm interests vocally opposed the measure, including the Maine Potato Board and the Maine Farm Bureau, arguing that the COVID-19 pandemic was a bad time to change the industry’s relationship with workers.
“Legislation that would restrict the ability to plant, care for and harvest our crops would risk the livelihood of Maine farmers and those employees that rely on the jobs Maine farms provide,” Don Flannery, the executive director of the potato industry group, said in a statement.
Last night the Press Herald reported that Mills the bill "would subject farmers to 'a complicated new set of laws that would require them to hire lawyers just to understand.'" This is exactly the same excuses Republicans use to attack unions. She said the bill "would further burden our small, family-owned farms by saddling them with increased costs" that would likely have to be passed along to consumers." Exactly what you would expect to hear from union-busters like Ron DeSantis (FL), Greg Abbott (TX), Kim Reynolds (IA), Kristi Noem (SD), Mike Parson (MO) or Bill Lee (TN), all of whom happen to be right-wing Republicans.
Mills’ veto was criticized by the Maine AFL-CIO, which said the measure would have allowed Maine farmworkers to push back against wage theft, sexual harassment and other abuses they face.
Farmworkers, the union said, are barred by law from forming unions and bargaining collectively, a prohibition that the AFL-CIO said is rooted in racism and excludes workers of color from labor protections.
...“We are greatly dismayed that Gov. Mills vetoed legislation to grant farmworkers the fundamental human right to join together and form unions for fair treatment and a better life,” Matt Schlobohm, executive director of the Maine AFL-CIO, said in a statement. “This bill would have advanced racial justice and corrected a long-standing injustice.”
Needless to say, EMILY's List is shipping every cent they get their hands on-- except what they shove into their own pockets-- to Mills, their quintessential candidate. Although current polling shows her beating LePage, it also shows him starting to catch up as her approval rating continues going down. Vetoing a unionization bill will discourage many grassroots Democrats from voting at all.
In 2016 Bernie swept Democratic caucuses in Maine, beating Hillary, another corporate Democrat, in every Maine county, some in absolute landslides.
The best Hillary did anywhere in the state was in tiny Aroostook, one of only 2 counties where she managed to attract over 40% of the votes. And somehow Mills believes she can count on these voters, not because of her own record, but because of how much they hate LePage. It could backfire in her face-- and, worse, flip the state Senate to the GOP.
In 2020, Maine switched to a primary system and the 2 progressives-- Bernie and Elizabeth got 98,881 votes (48.o2%) to the 93,023 votes (45.17%) for the 2 corporate conservatives, Biden and Bloomberg.