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July 7, 2009
AUGUSTA – The Maine Department of Labor has formed a multi-agency task force to investigate logger contracting practices in Northern Maine to ensure compliance with Maine equipment ownership law and the federal foreign labor certification process.
“There are numerous allegations and rumors about inappropriate activity concerning Canadian labor in Maine’s woods,” Governor John E. Baldacci said. “We are putting the resources on the ground to look into the situation, determine if there are violations and take necessary action if any are confirmed.”
Labor Commissioner Laura Fortman will lead the task force on the ground in Northern Maine this week. In addition to staff from the Department of Labor, the task force will be supported by the Office of the Attorney General, Department of Conservation, Maine Revenue Service and the Department of Public Safety.
“Our team includes specialists in areas of employment services, wage and hour, job banks and immigrant labor,” said Commissioner Fortman. “We will also be calling upon the expertise of other resources in State government when necessary.”
Members of the task force will talk with parties involved in logger contracting and will review practices, including whether Maine workers have an adequate opportunity to apply for job openings as required by federal law and whether logging equipment used in the Maine woods is purchased or leased by the employer through bona fide transactions as required by Maine law.
The requirements for equipment ownership are in MRSA Title 26, section 872 of Maine law. Legislation from the First Session of the 124th Legislature increased fines for civil violations of the law. Penalties now start at $3,000, but can range up to $15,000.