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Gov Mills’ Veto: Growing Unions On ME Farms

Governor Mills has vetoed L.D. 151 that would authorize unions for farm workers. Governor Mills is too seasoned to just look at the title of a bill before she signs it. She’s one of the best attorney’s in the country, and she’s trained to read the details first. More than a lawyer, Governor Mills has also been a pioneer during her whole career and has become an expert at making policy work conceptually, and she’s also an expert at crafting legislation so it actually implements and sticks for the long haul. 

The Governor makes it clear in her veto message that the size of the entities to be unionized matters. Of course that is true and is not only important for a Governor implementing policies like this in her rural areas, but it should also be a factor for unions, their policy people, as well as their organizers. 

Governor Mills and I are from the same generation. She not only can see the problems that exist, but our generation was able to observe the tactics and strategies the GOP used from Reagan forward to dismantle our union infrastructure to begin with.  

Nothing will impede the implementation and expansion of Unions quicker than if Unions and their organizers don’t focus on union acceptance culturally before, and certainly no later than simultaneously with the legislative and statutory implementation. If Union organizers focus on unionizing groups that are too small, too soon, they are going to maximize their resistance to implementation, culturally.  Of course it’s harder to unionize Amazon than a small farm. But ramming unions down the throats of really small, family groups is going to create an anti-union sentiment culturally that will help entities the size of Amazon avoid unions even more effectively than they can now.

 A future Native member of Congress from South Dakota posted this on her wall recently: “The young walk faster but the elders know the path”. Governor Mills and our generation witnessed the path Reagan and the subsequent GOP union busters used to dismantle our unions to begin with. They focused on causing dissatisfaction in the smaller union groups. It’s nonsensical from an implementation objective to focus on smaller groups first, as union organizers rebuild our collective bargaining infrastructure. 

Expanding unions with very small groups, in very rural areas, won’t be as easy as dumping complex legislative and statutory requirements on them. Which is exactly what L.D. 151 does, and what Governor Mills objects to in her veto message. To expand unions with small groups in rural areas, it’s going to take selling the competitive advantages of a collaborative relationship with BOTH the union group and farm management.  If union organization misses that, what they will be doing is creating the grass roots unacceptance of unions the GOP used to dismantle our middle class expanding union system in the first place.

L.D. 151 simply isn’t ready for prime time, or ready to achieve real collective bargaining for Maine’s farm workers.  And the Governor was spot on to say so.  The backlash from an insensitive implementation can retard union expansion rather than maximize it. That is what will happen if the L.D. 151 veto is overridden in this draft form. 

Unions could go out and hire a really cool, high priced lawyer to help. Or they could accept the veto from one of the best lawyers in the country and utilize her expertise while she’s Governor to fix it for free.

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