Maine Legislators Seeking to Improve Working Conditions for Loggers. (Legislation)

Article excerpt

Two Maine state legislators want to improve wages, living conditions and safety for the logging workers, many of whom are citizens of other countries. State Representative Troy Jackson, an Independent representing an area that includes part of the north Maine woods, introduced bills calling for increased wages for loggers and requiring employers to compensate workers who supply their own saws and other equipment.

Said Jackson, a former logger, "I did exactly the same job in 1986 and I was paid $165 an acre, had to bring my own car but I got travel pay. Now they're doing it for $75 an acre, they buy their own saw and don't have any benefits."

State Representative Sean Faircloth (D, Bangor) is drafting a bill requiring employers to provide housing for workers working at remote sites, so they would not have to make long trips back to their lodgings at the end of a tiring day. The bill also requires employers to provide transportation for their employees.

Last September, 14 workers died when the van taking them back to their lodgings -- a three-hour trip for some swerved off a bridge and into the Alla-gash Wilderness Waterway. It was the worst traffic accident in Maine history.

Since the accident, state and federal officials have said that foreign laborers in the forestry industry, unlike migrant farm workers, are not entitled under federal law to employer-provided housing near the job. …