Thursday, June 9, 2011

DeCoster Update: Land O' Lakes has "no involvement" with LD 1207

For those who've been following the strange story of the "Help Jack DeCoster" bill in the Maine legislature, a couple of breaking items to report:

First, the bill -- LD 1207 -- just passed the Maine house moments ago, 74-68, after its sponsor, Rep. Dale Crafts (R-Lisbon), presented a new argument as to why it should pass. The bill -- which will take away workers' right to unionize at the notorious egg magnates' companies -- is allegedly the only thing standing in the way of DeCoster making a big sale. The Senate will consider the bill shortly.

DeCoster's Quality Egg LLC, Rep. Crafts alleged on the State House floor today, is about to be sold to the Minnesota-based agricultural cooperative Land O' Lakes, Inc., but the deal will supposedly fall apart if LD 1207 is not passed. As the Sun Journal's Steve Mistler reports, Land O' Lakes has unionized facilities elsewhere in the country, which raises questions about the accuracy of Rep. Crafts' assertions. (As previously reported, he gave erroneous testimony on the bill before the labor committee earlier this session.)

I contacted Land O' Lakes to check up on Crafts' assertion. Their director of corporate communications, Jeanne Forbis, responded with a written statement saying the company "does not comment on rumors or speculation in the marketplace." But she added: "we have no involvement with legislation being considered in Maine relating to unionization of agricultural workers."

My follow-up question was if the company has "an interest or a stake" in LD 1207. Ms. Forbis responded by e-mail that they were "not going to go beyond our statement."

[Update, 6/9/2011, 7:05pm: Susan Sharon of MPBN has comment from DeCoster's spokesman, and has included a transcript of their interview at their site. He essentially says there's no imminent deal, but declines to contradict Rep. Crafts directly. Ms. Forbis gave MPBN the same statement that I received.]

[Update, 6/11/2001: The Senate, skeptical perhaps of the whole situation, referred the bill back to the labor committee for further consideration.]

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