The middle class in Portland struck out again tonight when the City Council elites voted 5 – 4 against a proposed Earned Paid Sick Leave measure that the Health & Human Services Committee unanimously passed and forwarded to the Council following 15 months of Committee work including public hearings on it. Chair of the Committee is Councilor Belinda Ray, from District 1.
Those voting in opposition to it were: Councilors Jill Duson, Nick Mavadones, Kim Cook, Justin Costa, Spencer Thebodeau – the conservative wing of the City Council. They need to go! Those voting in support of the proposed ordinance were: Councilors Belinda Ray, Brian Batson, Pious Ali and Mayor Ethan Strimling. Councilor Ray usually votes with the conservatives, but broke ranks with them tonight. Politics?
Those five opposed to the proposed ordinance came up with bogus reasons for it’s defeat. For example, Justin Costa even accused proponents of trying to “divide” the community by bringing it up to the Council. That comment is mindful of other amateurish alibis Costa has tried to make to block progressive ideas that occasionally get out of Committee and make it to the Council.
Real estate attorney Spencer Thibodeau, of Pierce Atwood, has one of the most lucrative benefit programs around, but doesn’t believe that others deserve earned sick leave benefits. Why is he so special? Opponents claimed it would punish companies that already provide good benefits to their employees. Councilor Brian Batson, Committee member and a nurse at Maine Medical Center, said: “We are not trying to punish companies that already have generous benefit programs.” The Committee worked hard on that. Councilor Batson well understands from a professional perspective, the importance of having a healthy workforce. Thibodeau doesn’t “get it” apparently. The same goes for Mavadones, operations manager for Casco Bay Lines, who receives a generous benefits package. Portland councilors are refusing to move ahead into the 21st century with its Neanderthal mindset.
“There is nothing more core in my mind. The health of our workforce is critical. Public health is core to our city, so to suggest that public health is not a municipal issue is wrong. This bill will protect workers. Thirty municapalities around the country, progressive places, use this….fifteen months have been spent working on this bill,” said Mayor Strimling, in a powerful statement that would have been supported anywhere but in the city of Portland.
The Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce waged a successful pr campaign against the measure; both in the press and otherwise. Quincy Hentzel, CEO, attacked Mayor Ethan Strimling in the press, causing a backlash, for her personal politics. Chambers are notoriously anti-worker and pro-capitalism. No exception here!
“I reached out to the Councilors as recently as last week and asked for questions about this ordinance and they had none,” said the Mayor following the meeting. Apparently, they were saving them for this evening.