AUGUSTA — Two bills that would affect organized labor appeared to be headed for the waste bin Tuesday, after an aggressive campaign against them over the last few months.

The measures were set aside on the House floor, after being pulled out of committee for lack of action. Leaders from both political parties indicated that they expect the proposals to die, by direct votes or procedurally.

“Those who oppose the ‘right-to-work’ bills have been extremely galvanized, more so than I’ve ever seen in my 21 years in the Legislature,” said Senate Minority Leader Barry Hobbins, D-Saco. “Quite frankly, (the business community) vetted this issue just like all of us have and you don’t see them clamoring for this bill.”

L.D. 309 and L.D. 788, sponsored by Rep. Tom Winsor, R-Norway, would apply to workers in the private and public sectors. They would prohibit any requirements for non-union workers to pay negotiating fees to unions.

Workers can now choose whether to join a union if there is one in their workplace. If they join, they pay union dues. If they do not join, they do not pay dues but they must pay fees because they benefit from union negotiations on such issues as wages and benefits.

Proponents of “right-to-work” legislation say workers should not be forced to pay anything. Opponents say the measures are aimed at undermining organized labor, because if workers could receive all the benefits of a unionized work force but not have to contribute, then none would join.

The two bills went to the full Legislature because the official deadline for committee work has passed. Neither proposal had received a public hearing. Many sources said Republican leaders had been considering how to avoid the partisan battle that consideration of the proposals would likely have produced.

Democrats said Tuesday that they were not alarmed by the unusual procedural circumstances.

Hobbins said didn’t feel that Republicans were trying to circumvent the public process.

“The fact that the other side has taken the bill out without public hearing, without having it vetted, demonstrates that they know there’s a real problem out there also with the voters,” he said.

Lance Dutson, spokesman for House Speaker Robert Nutting, R-Oakland, said there was not yet an official plan or time line for action on the bills. But he said they could not be enacted without a public hearing.

Matt Schlobohm of the AFL-CIO, said, “I have no reason to believe this is any kind of devious, backdoor effort to pass these at all. … I think everybody has operated in good faith so far.”

Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican who supports the legislation, said Tuesday that he was unsure of its fate.

“We’ll see what happens,” he said. “Quite frankly, what’s a priority to me right now is the budget.”

MaineToday Media State House Writer Rebekah Metzler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at: [email protected]