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January 1998, Volume 4, Number 1

Maine

In Turner, Maine, Mexican immigrants dominate the work force at the
DeCoster Egg Farm, the largest brown-egg producer in the US, with 4.5 million
chickens. About half of DeCoster's 500 workers are Hispanic. Some of the
Mexican-born workers are in areas of the US that have had few Mexicans. They
say that they left California or Texas to enjoy the higher wages and better
benefits associated with fewer newly arrived Mexican workers.


In December, the NLRB announced that it would issue complaints charging
that DeCoster unlawfully interfered with workers engaged in union activities,
spied on workers and fired union supporters; the United Paperworkers
International is attempting to organize DeCoster workers. The charges were
filed against the two successor companies, Maine Ag and Quality Eggs of New
England.


In 1996, DeCoster was fined $ 2 million by the federal Occupational Safety
and Health Administration for violations of health and safety laws. This fine
and publicity resulted in boycotts of DeCoster eggs, and a law approved in
Maine that permits workers on large farms to unionize under state laws. Most
farm workers are not covered by the NLRA.


The US DOL ordered a Maine farm to pay $34,000 in back wages and fines for
hiring six workers from Puerto Rico, firing them and then abandoning them at a
bus station so that it could hire H-2A foreign workers. White Oak Farms is
also barred from the H-2A program for 16 months.



Patrick McDonnell, "Mexican Arrivals Seek New Frontiers: Far-flung regions
like Maine and Alaska join in witnessing largest sustained mass migration to
U.S. of any group," Los Angeles Times, January 1, 1998. Edward D. Murphy,
"Probe finds evidence of egg farm offenses," Portland Press Herald December 16,
1997.