A group of employees and union representatives have called for mandatory unpaid overtime for state workers.
The group, the Maine Manpower and Labor Association, is asking the governor to enact a bill that would force employers to pay at least 20 hours per week for overtime.
The bill, called the Overtime Protection Act, was introduced earlier this year by Sen. Jeff Mowery, a Republican from Portland.
The bill would also allow workers to request up to eight hours of overtime pay.
Maine has the lowest minimum wage in the country, at $5.15 per hour, and employers have been required to pay more for overtime for years.
Mowery said he would not sign the bill if it included mandatory overtime pay, as some have said.
“I think it’s a terrible idea,” he said.
“It’s going to drive up wages, it’s going, it will make it harder for businesses to hire and it’s also going to make it tougher for workers to get paid.”
The legislation is backed by the Maine State AFL-CIO and labor unions in the state.
“If we don’t pass this legislation, I think we’re going to be looking at another year of the same situation,” said state AFL-CCO president and CEO Steve Mirek.
Mirek said the bill is a win for workers who rely on paid sick days, overtime pay and paid vacation, but it is not a win in terms of the economy as a whole.
Marek said that employers have taken advantage of workers’ rights to increase pay, but also that workers who have been working without pay for too long have lost their jobs and are not getting the minimum wage they deserve.
“We have been in this for a long time,” he added.
“What we’ve done over the last few years is we’ve put in place a number of measures to try to make sure that folks are getting paid their fair share of the money they’re making.”
Mireg said employers in the private sector have also been able to increase their pay in recent years, but the Maine labor law requires companies to offer at least one year of paid sick leave and pay workers an additional 30% increase in the minimum hourly wage for each year they take the leave.
Merek said he thinks employers should pay their workers overtime in the absence of any other way to keep their workers from losing their jobs.
“They should be paying the workers at least the minimum that they are owed,” he noted.
“I think if the governor thinks that’s the way to do it, then I think that’s fine.”
Mareg said the governor should also enact legislation that would require employers to provide paid time off, a right that Maine has been trying to enact for decades.
“This is something that’s been tried for years,” he remarked.
“So it’s time to finally put it in the law and give employers a chance to make their case for paying their workers fairly.”
Mowering said he believes employers should be held accountable for not providing workers the time off they are entitled to under the Maine law.
“That should not happen in the middle of a holiday season,” he argued.
“If the governor really wants to help working families, he should be willing to help them take care of their families instead of sending them to work on the weekends and holidays.”
Mereck said the proposed Overtime Protect Act is not about paying the minimum, but about making sure the employees who work at a company can still afford to live on their own.
“It’s about getting them paid for their time,” Mireg added.
“That’s why it’s important to have a fair wage, it should be paid by the hour.”MAREK said it is time for the state to start working on the solutions to the problems of wage theft and wage theft of the working poor.
“There are a lot of people who are being exploited here,” he concluded.
“The bottom line is that there are not enough people working in Maine, and we have to start putting them to rest.”