Maine Lobstermen Score Victory; Poised for Another

Maine Lobstermen and District 4 Representatives gather at the State House prior to a hearing on LD 1549, a bill that threatens the sustainability of Maine’s lobster industry, as State Representative Mick Devin (D) addresses those gathered for a press conference.

IAM District Lodge 4 members recently joined fellow lobstermen in Maine to help defeat a bill thinly guised as a means to give exemptions for incidentally caught lobsters. LD 1549 attempted to provide protection for fishermen using a process called “dragging” – a practice Maine lobstermen vehemently oppose.

The bill was defeated by a 28-7 vote in the State Senate and 106-38 vote in the House.

“Today’s vote showed strong support here in Augusta for Maine’s hardworking lobstermen,” said IAM District Lodge 4 Organizer Joel Pitcher. “We thank the Senators who opposed loosening dragging regulations and stood in support of a sustainable Maine lobster industry.”

The sound defeat came despite strong efforts by the business lobby, which stood to profit from the bill.

Maine lobstermen oppose “dragging” as it threatens the sustainability of the industry, thereby endangering the lobstering communities’ way of life.
Nearly 500 Maine lobstermen have joined and are paying dues as members, and will soon charter their own Local Lodge 207, for Maine’s area code.

“Seeing these new members stand together to take on, for the first time in their history, laws that adversely affect them, made me proud to be an IAM union member and representative,” said IAM District 4 DBR Joe Flanders. “The flood of red t-shirts as they filled the State House was awe inspiring. Winning a legislative fight that’s good for lobstermen and good for Maine just adds to my pride.”

An earlier bill, LD 1097, was introduced as an act to allow the sale of incidentally caught lobsters. A large group of lobstermen and new IAM members, who participated in a special program held at the IAM’s William W. Winpisinger Education & Technology Center to develop organizing strategies and receive training to collectively navigate the political process, flooded the State House in Augusta, ME, to testify at the public hearing. The bill later died in committee.

District 4, the IAM Maine Lobstering Union (IMLU) as they are known, also helped to create their first piece of proactive legislation, LD 1448 – “An Act to Preserve Marine Resources Licenses for Active Duty Service Members.” The bill would allow lobstermen serving in the U.S. Armed Forces to maintain their lobstering licenses, should they return to Maine and choose to become lobstermen again. More than 30 lobstermen testified in support, including Rock Alley, a lifelong lobsterman, whose son lost his license after being called to active duty to serve in the Iraq War. The bill recently came out of committee with a unanimous “ought to pass” recommendation.

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