A march and rally to launch a campaign in support of a campaign for earned paid sick days for all Portland workers has been scheduled for tomorrow, Monday, September 4th. The march will start at the Irish Heritage Center, 34 Gray Street at 10:00 am. The rally will be held in Longfellow Square at 10:30 am.
It is anticipated that an ordinance requiring Portland employers to offer employees earned paid sick days will be introduced by Mayor Ethan Strimling on the council’s September 18th agenda.
Thirty-six percent of Maine workers don’t receive any paid sick time at their workplace. That amounts to almost 200,000 people. Nationally, hospitality and health care support services are the industries least likely to provide paid sick days – industries that are among Portland’s largest. Paid sick days are also a race and gender equity issue as people of color, immigrants and women are more likely to hold jobs that do not provide paid sick days. Earned paid sick time is a critical safety net for working families.
Earned paid sick days are also a public health issue. According to the Center for Disease Control, every year about 21 million Americans contract foodborne illness. Half of those are caused by sick employees preparing and handling food. It is also known that a child is more than twice as likely to be sent to school or day care sick, if a parent can’t earn paid sick time.
Several months ago, Hannaford Brothers on Forest Avenue, replaced six check out counters run by clerks with six glaring “self checkout express” lanes. Although a store representative claims that no jobs have been eliminated by this change, there is no doubt that it will be coming soon. Automation replaces jobs that people previously held. Several employees spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal by Hannaford Brothers.
One such employee said she would not be surprised to see all checkouts replaced with automated checkouts within 5 – 6 years at Hannaford Brothers. Another employee said that there are complaints about these machines every day from the public who do not want to use them and are concerned about the eventual loss of jobs due to automation.
The Labor Day march and rally is sponsored by the Southern Maine Workers’ Association, the Maine Womens’ Lobby, the Maine State Nurse Association and others.