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Maine Rolls Back Child Labor Laws. 1 Down, 1 to Go in ‘Right to Work’ Fight

Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R)—the same LePage who was so incensed about a labor history mural that included a depiction of the fight for strong child labor laws that he ordered it taken down—signed a bill yesterday that weakens Maine’s child labor laws.

The bill allows business owners to work teenagers longer hours each day and later into the night. Sixteen- and 17-year-olds can now work six hours a day and until 10:15 p.m. on school nights. But counting weekends and short school weeks, employers could have teenage workers on the clock for as many as 50 hours a week.

The Maine Restaurant Association, Maine Innkeepers Association and other business groups backed the child labor law rollback. Says Rep. Timothy Driscoll (D):

I think this bill should be more rightly titled an act to exploit our children for the financial benefit of the restaurant and the hospitality industry.

The original bill would have lifted almost all restrictions for teenagers and would have allowed employers to pay young workers a $5.25 an hour “training wage” as opposed to the state’s $7.25 an hour minimum wage. That went too far for even some Republican lawmakers who modified the bill.

Meanwhile, today in Augusta, workers are at the state Capitol rallying to defeat a second so-called right to work bill. Yesterday, the state House of Representatives voted to “indefinitely postpone” a private-sector “right to work” bill. But today, a vote is set on a version that applies to public employees.

In message to union members, the Maine AFL-CIO says:

As workers, and as union members, we stand firmly together! We oppose all attacks on workers’ rights to sit across the table and collectively bargain with their employers.

Following yesterday’s action, Matt Schlobohm, executive director of the Maine AFL-CIO, said:

I mean it was really an out-of-state national agenda about rolling back workers’ rights.  It was a distraction from the real issues at hand. It did nothing to create jobs

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