Northern loggers travel to Augusta to call for an end to assault on Maine workers

by Ramona du Houx - May 7th, 2011 · 

Photo: Sen. Jackson talks about the unfair labor policy - LD 1383 - at a state house press conference. The proposal would hurt loggers and the industry in Maine.
Dozens of northern Maine loggers and small business owners showed up at the State House to ask lawmakers to protect Maine jobs that are currently going to Canadian labor.

“The question is, ‘whose side are we on? We cannot abandon Maine workers for fire-sale Canadian wages. This is poor policy and frankly immoral,” said Senator Troy Jackson of Allagash.

Jackson was referring to “An Act to Improve the Process by Which Logging Contractors Hire Legal Foreign Workers”, LD 1383, Senator Thomas Saviello’s bill.

“Plain and simple, Maine jobs are going to Canadian workers. The practical effect of this legislation is even fewer opportunities for Maine workers. I cannot continue to sit back and watch Canadian trucks drive right by my house hauling Maine lumber while my neighbors are out of work,” said Jackson.

LD 1383 makes it easier for Maine companies to hire H2A bonded foreign labor by the loosening of several standards, including eliminating the proof of ownership for the equipment used in logging operations. LD 1383 also permits Maine taxpayer dollars to be spent on giving Maine unemployment to foreign workers.

Logging-related discussions have heated up since a recent House floor debate when Rep. Peter Rioux (R-Winterport) called Maine loggers lazy and whiney and the endorsement of hiring Canadian labor because it’s cheaper by Rep. Jarrod Crockett.

“There are many Maine loggers whose equipment sits idle while foreign labor is doing the job. Consequently, Maine loggers are defaulting on loans for that equipment. No matter how some try to construe it, Maine’s economy and certainly Maine’s workers do not benefit from the hiring of Canadian labor,” said Shelly Mountain, a logger and small business owner.

The public hearing in the LCRED committee lasted more than three hours. The work session for LD 1383 will likely be scheduled for next week.