A State Representative from Maine runs a certified Maine Organic Farmers Association (MOFGA) farm apprenticeship, which pays its apprentices as little as $3/hour, sometimes housing them in cabins without electricity.
Rep. Bill Pluecker (I-Warren), runs Hatchet Cove Farm in the Midcoast region of Maine, where he hires apprentices to work 50 hours per week for as little as $100 per week, and as much as $200 per week.
“We expect about fifty hours of work a week over six days (Saturday is a half-day and apprentices have Sundays off except for intermittent CSA mornings). The work is nearly always physical, but there are some lighter jobs on our farm along with the heavier work to create a good mix,” Pluecker’s apprenticeship ad on the MOFGA website says.
Fifty hours per week at a rate of $150 per week comes out to three dollars per hour for apprentices. The advertised living conditions are less-than-stellar, too.
“Options range from a private room next to the apprentice kitchen and living area (in a separate section of the farmhouse), an electricity-free cabin in the woods located a short walk from the house and cooking/hangout area, or another cabin with no electricity on the lake, about a ten-minute walk from the farmhouse,” according to the ad.
A letter to the editor of a the Rockland, Maine paper The Courier-Gazette, penned by resident Edward Courtenay, said Pluecker is a “self-described social justice warrior.”
“The voting record of Mr. Pluecker shows that he strongly opposed making changes to the minimum-wage increases passed at the ballot box, which would have allowed other small businesses to make various accommodations to help soften the blows for the steep increases,” Courtenay said. “All the while he is able to take advantage of current agricultural exemptions for minimum wages and overtime and rewards his hardworking interns, asked to work upwards of 50 hours per week, an average of $3 per hour.”
Pluecker’s voting record shows that he recently voted “yes” to kill a bill to decrease the minimum wage for non agricultural underage workers, and voted “no” on a bill that would have increased fines for violating certain state wage and benefits laws. He also voted “yes” on a bill to decrease the minimum wage for “small employers.”
Pluecker also voted with Democrats in May to kill a mandatory E-Verify bill. E-Verify is a federal program used by 20 states to ensure that employees are authorized to work in the United States.
Pluecker did not return a comment request.
Also promoted by the MOFGA website is a certified organic farming co-op called the New American Sustainable Agriculture Project (NASAP), a program directed by Daniel Ungier, which “puts refugees from all over the planet onto plots of land around Maine so that they can grow, market and sell their own produce.” Colloquially, they’re called the “New American Farmers.” Most of the refugees are Bantu Somalis. It is unclear how much or whether these refugees are paid during their apprenticeships.
“Currently the program has 30 farmers in various stages of training. They are given their own plot to grow on, either in Lisbon, Portland or Cape Elizabeth, and sell the food through five urban farm stands, including the Portland Farmers’ Market,” according to the report.
Though there is no evidence that MOFGA and NASAP are connected by anything other than MOFGA’s promotion of NASAP on its website, it is no secret that establishment politicians on the political left and right enjoy the fruits of cheap immigrant labor, which often displaces American workers.
Increasingly, Maine is becoming a hotspot for African refugees. In June, hundreds of Congolese refugees showed up in Portland, Maine seeking shelter, which the city scrambled to provide.
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