Canada | USA
Maine Grappling with Bonded Labor Policies
Because of policy obstructions enacted by the Maine state legislature, the use of bonded Canadian logging workers has been at an all-time low during the past two seasons, aggravating the region’s already constricted logging capacity and causing mills to reach further out for wood.
In April, the U.S. Department of Labor challenged applications from four Maine logging employers seeking H-2A guestworker visas for Canadian log truck drivers—DOL’s position being that log truck driving was not part of logging and furthermore that, if H-2A visas were granted, those drivers (Canadian citizens) would not be able also to deliver wood to Canada. In May, attorneys representing the employers, working with FRA’s Forest Employers Committee, were able to reverse this ruling.
Also in April the Maine legislature passed LD 1383, An Act to Promote a Qualified Logging Workforce and Ensure an Adequate Wood Supply for Maine Mills, as an attempt to restore some balance to state policy. Although this bill introduces only minor changes to Maine’s rules on the use of bonded labor, it does require the Maine Department of Labor to work with industry and other stakeholders to improve DOL’s recruitment and referral process and to develop an entry-level logger training program to relieve the severe labor deficit. The bill includes many recommendations submitted by FRA. The FRA Forest Employers Committee remains closely engaged with this issue.