WASHINGTON — Far from places like Ohio and Wisconsin, Maine has become a new battleground in the labor fight. Gov. Paul LePage (R) recently sparked the anger of the union community by ordering a mural depicting workers throughout the state’s history removed from the Department of Labor. Now, Republican members of the state legislature are attempting to loosen child labor laws that the community fought hard to put into place.
The minimum wage in Maine is $7.50 an hour, and there is no training or subminimum wage for students. But under a new piece of legislation introduced in the state’s House of Representatives, employers would be able to pay anyone under the age of 20 as little as $5.25 an hour for their first 180 days on the job.
The bill, LD 1346, also eliminates the maximum number of hours a minor 16 years of age or older can work on a school day and allows a minor under the age of 16 to work up to four hours on a school day during hours when school is not in session.
With Maine’s unemployment above 7 percent, state Rep. Paul Gilbert (D) wonders why Republicans are pushing to create a pool of cheap labor when so many people are begging for jobs.
“If we had a shortage of job applicants or potential workers, then you could look at other populations to ease that strain on the workforce,” Gilbert told The Huffington Post. “But we don’t have that right now. We have an excess of job applicants here in Maine, as well across the country.”
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