Portland workers: Threat pay of $18 an hour would be ‘amazing’ – Press Herald

6December 2020

They stock store racks, deliver provisions, repair your house and cook and serve your meals.

They also work in class and hospitals or for nonprofit companies serving people with mental illness or substance use issues.

They’re amongst the workers captured in the crossfire of a fierce debate in Maine’s biggest city: Does a minimum wage regulation approved by voters on Nov. 3 suggest that employees who must report to a Portland workplace throughout the pandemic should be paid a minimum of $18 an hour beginning today?

“Individuals who are working throughout the pandemic should be making ample, so they don’t have to fret about covering their basic requirements like rent and food, and then (danger) the capacity of catching something, because they are more exposed than individuals who are working remotely,” stated Jiwana Soleimani, who has actually worked throughout the pandemic at a Portland coffee bar for $12 an hour, the base pay in Maine.

Individuals First Portland, a political group formed by the Southern Maine Democratic Socialists of America that drafted the regulation, states Portland companies need to pay threat pay beginning today equivalent to 1.5 times the current minimum wage of $12 an hour, or they run the risk of being sued for back pay. Portland’s lawyer, however, has said the hazard pay arrangement does not take effect until 2022, leaving employers to decide which interpretation to think.

Recently, the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce and five regional organizations asked a judge to strike down the threat pay provision, which prompted a group of workers to intervene in the event to safeguard the threat pay provision.

Several employees contacted by the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram would not speak on the record about what a pay boost to $18 an hour would suggest for them, stating they fretted about losing their jobs.

The newspaper filed a public records ask for city communications concerning the base pay regulation on Nov. 19, consisting of correspondence from employees who want the threat pay provision to be implemented. Those records were not offered by press time, although the city proactively released dozens of e-mails received by concerned organizations on Nov. 10.

Soleimani has worked as a barista for a regional cafe that has struggled to remain open throughout the pandemic. The 20-year-old South Portland homeowner said her base wage is $12 an hour. That can rise to $18 an hour with tips throughout the normally hectic summer season.

“That was more than enough for me to cover my basic necessities,” Soleimani said. “However in the winter season it was tough to cover my costs.”

And organizations have been anything however hectic during the pandemic. In reality, Soleimani stated she was laid off Nov. 15 due to the fact that organization is so slow. Yet she still believes employees like her must make threat pay of $18 an hour starting this week due to the fact that they are risking their own health during a pandemic.

Caleb Horton, who works at Whole Foods, at his home in Portland on Saturday. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Professional Photographer Caleb Horton, 25, makes $15 an hour filling online grocery orders at Whole Foods for consumers unable or unwilling to do their own in-store shopping during the pandemic. Horton thinks workers like him need to get risk pay starting this week due to the fact that they’re constantly exposed to the general public and at an increased risk for contracting COVID-19.

Horton and a co-corker have intervened in the chamber’s claim, which seeks to overrule the requirement.

“The pandemic has made things really frightening for a lot of the people working there,” Horton said. “It’s difficult to go into work and not understand if you’re going to get ill.”

Horton stated he recently returned to Portland and currently lives with his parents. However the extra $3 an hour would not just acknowledge the included risks of his task; it might likewise help him settle financial obligation and spend for his own place.

“It would suggest a lot to me,” he said. “It would really help me get back on my feet and set down roots here in Portland. It would definitely assist me to get the cost savings I require to start settling my student loans and assist me get into an apartment.”

Anthony Emerson outside the Shaw’s Northgate in Portland after his shift on Wednesday. Emerson has worked at the grocery store for over six years. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer Anthony Emerson, 26, has actually been operating at the Northgate Shaw’s supermarket in Portland for the last 6 1/2 years. He said he makes$12.35 an hour and the company also uses other benefits, such as a 401(k) retirement strategy, medical insurance and paid time off. But the job has just gotten more difficult because of the pandemic and the way that public health steps such as wearing masks have actually become politicized. He communicated a story of an unmasked client calling him and his colleagues “afraid little girls” for using masks.

“It’s been exceptionally stressful,” Emerson said. “Consumers are on edge. Supervisors are on edge. My co-workers are on edge. I’m on edge.”

Since Nov. 25, Emerson said he had actually not heard from his manager about whether he would be getting a raise since of the continuous coronavirus emergency, though he’s positive his pay will increase.

Spokespeople for Shaw’s and other grocers, such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, did not react to a request for information. However a spokesperson for the Hannaford grocery store chain stated the business began paying the hazard wage recently.

Emerson stated it’s “disgusting” that the city would “flagrantly violate the will of the citizens” by releasing a legal interpretation that differed from what advocates planned and what citizens anticipated.

Emerson, a member of the Southern Maine Democratic Socialists of America who ran unsuccessfully for school board this fall, stated a raise to $18 an hour would provide him more financial independence. And he believes putting more money into workers’ pockets will benefit local services that are presently struggling.

“Oh, my God. It would offer me with a lot more financial convenience,” stated Emerson, who has a moderate form of autism and deals with his mother. “That monetary versatility might help me find a location so I can vacate.”

Other employees decreased to be called in this story out of worry of losing their tasks.

A 19-year-old carpenter’s apprentice making $14.50 an hour plus other advantages stated danger pay is required to represent the risks he takes by appearing at work sites, where mask compliance is spotty. The additional pay would permit him to save some cash, assistance settle his car and perhaps take a couple of online classes, in addition to working.

A part-time staffer at the University of Southern Maine states she is immunocompromised and would likely end up in the health center if she contracted COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. On top of that, she has actually student loans connected with her undergraduate degree in ceramics and education and a master’s in studio art.

“I am working three tasks– I’m struggling to endure,” the 26-year-old stated. “(A raise) would be amazing. If I was making $18 an hour for a brief amount of time I could really begin saving cash. I currently have absolutely no savings, which is actually scary.”

She blames the city, not USM or drafters of the ordinance, for developing confusion around when the threat pay arrangement takes effect.

“It truly did look like everyone thought this was going to occur in December,” she said. “All the City Council did is sow gigantic amounts of confusion.”


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