Today, two grocery store workers at Whole Foods stepped up to defend the hard won rights of Portland workers to adequate pay against the recently filed Chamber of Commerce lawsuit seeking to invalidate the city’s new hazard pay requirements in the face of the city’s inadequate enforcement of the law. People First Portland (PFP) applauds the courage of these workers for standing up to take on big business lobbyists in order to ensure that all workers in Portland receive the pay they deserve.
Since Hazard Pay was passed overwhelmingly by Portland voters exactly 30 days ago, we have heard from countless workers who are risking their lives for wages that don’t buy enough groceries for themselves and their families, cover their health care bills or allow them to stay home when they have to quarantine. As COVID-19 spikes to its highest levels in Maine, cases in workers have escalated and workplaces have become even more deadly.
Thankfully, we have also heard from many for-profit and not-for-profit businesses who have agreed to pay the new hazard wage. We thank and congratulate them for doing the right thing. Unfortunately, because of the city council’s illegal refusal to enforce the law, we have also heard too many stories of businesses refusing to pay. This has left workers in the unenviable place of having to sue their employers in order to get the wages they are owed. It never should have been this way.
“The City Council should have stood up for workers by enforcing this new law and using the power of their office to advocate for more aid if they felt some employers needed it,” said Kate Sykes, a volunteer for PFP, who recently finished a close second to councilor-elect Mark Dion. “Instead, they told workers they would have to fight their employers. Hopefully, our new council will be more responsive to the flood of desperate emails sent to city hall.”
PFP will do everything we can to support Caleb and Mario for standing up on behalf of all workers in this city who have been let down by the Council’s action. We hope all employers will begin complying with hazard pay on Sunday in order to avoid any future lawsuits according to a press release issued by PFP this morning.
Mhn.com called the local Whole Foods to get a statement from management regarding the above press release. Rather, mhn.com was disconnected three times. An employee who answered the telephone said he was not permitted to give out the name of his supervisor who would not come to the telephone. Finally, on the fourth attempt, this blogger talked to a supervisor, Debra, who said she was not authorized to speak on behalf of Whole Foods.
Mhn.com then drive to the high-end grocery store on Somerset Street. This blogger learned that most employees of the store talked to were ignorant of the Hazard Pay law that passed on November 3rd. However, one employee in the meat department was an exception. He told mhn.com that the store is “up to speed” because it is adhering to the city council’s push back against the law passed on November 3rd by a decisive majority of Portland voters. When this blogger told him that position was illegal, he said: “We’ll see.”
Where is the “Republican Press Herald” on this press release from People First Portland; Avoiding the subject by focusing on national news? The “Republican Press Herald”, the mouth piece for the Portland Mayor and City Council, have consistently been opposed to Questions A – E – most of which passed decisively on November 3rd by Portland voters.
Quincy Hentzel, CEO of the Regional Portland Chamber of Commerce, who has filed a lawsuit in the matter, has not responded to a request from this blogger for a comment on the foregoing press release.