Rep. Bill Pluecker takes fire for paying his workers just $3 per hour

Rep. Bill Pluecker (I – Warren) at a public meeting. Photo courtesy Representative William Pluecker public Facebook page.

WARREN – State Representative Bill Pluecker of Warren is taking fire from a constituent in a local newspaper for paying workers on his farm an average of $3 an hour and working 50 hour work weeks after Pluecker cast votes in Augusta that seem to contradict his own labor practices.

In a letter to the editor submitted to the local Courier-Gazette newspaper, Warren resident Edward Courtenay points to Pluecker’s votes against any changes to Maine’s minimum wage laws for Maine’s businesses to allow Maine small businesses to soften the blow of yearly minimum wage increases.

Courtenay also points to Pluecker’s vote against a bill that would have increased fines for wage violations. That bill has been carried over to the next legislative session.

The letter from Courtenay calls Pluecker a “self-proclaimed social justice warrior”, “former labor organizer” and “hypocrite.”

An ad on the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association website shows Pluecker’s farm advertising for apprentices for their farm. The ad says that apprentices are expected to work 50 hours per week for a salary starting at $100 through until mid-June, then rises to $150 per week until mid-September.

In mid-September, apprentices earn $200 per week, or about $4 per hour.

The ad outlines an array of responsibilities, including milking cows, carpentry, livestock work, harvesting and preparing vegetables and much more.

The ad also describes accommodations, which include single rooms or cabins without electricity. Food is provided, but apprentices mostly appear to be responsible to prepare it themselves, aside from one meal weekly.

“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.

Ad from Rep. Bill Pluecker’s Hatchet Cove Farm on MOFGA website.

In the summer we mostly eat from our own gardens, and buy supplemental items in bulk, all of which are freely available to apprentices.  We also have meat from the farm livestock available. We have a weekly “farm dinner” cooked either by Reba or a CSA member, but other than that apprentices generally cook and eat in a separate space from our family.

Ad from Rep. Bill Pluecker’s Hatchet Cove Farm on MOFGA website.

Pluecker also recently made news with a donation of goods from Hatchet Cove Farm, presumably harvested with the help of the farm’s apprentices, to the effort to care for the controversial waves of non-citizens who have arrived in Portland, Maine in recent weeks.

The Warren representative also introduced a bill this legislative session to spend $1 million in state taxpayer dollars to create a fund for government agencies to purchase local food products, such as those grown on his farm.

Maine’s labor laws allow farms to pay employees less than the minimum wage except in the instance of large poultry farms.

Rep. Pluecker also voted to kill a bill that would have allowed non-agricultural businesses to hire school aged workers at $8.25 per hour and indexed that pay rate to rise as the state’s minimum wage rises. That rate would have been more than double what Pluecker pays his apprentices at their highest rate of the year.

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