Hotline and Legal Clinic Response to COVID-19

Thank you so much for contacting us about your work problem. You’ve bravely taken the first step to get the support and answers you need.

We are always here to provide services and resources but due to COVID-19 some of our options have temporarily changed.

Please be advised of the following:

  • Our weekly Workers’ Support Legal Clinic, scheduled every Thursday from 5-7PM, is postponed indefinitely.
  • Our Hotline is here to help. Our volunteers and staff are here for you and take your concerns seriously.
  • Due to unusually high call volume, response times for worker concerns may take up to 24 hours.
  • To help our volunteers respond to you in a timely manner, please leave a voicemail and clearly state your full name and phone number.

While you wait, here are 2 excellent resources to research:

  • Free Legal Answers Here is the link.
  • Our WORK Manual is available in English and Spanish .PDFs here. French language options here.

Even though we cannot meet with you in-person, we recognize that workers’ issues have not gone away.  In fact, this pandemic has caused a massive upheaval to our day-to-day operations and workers, across many industries, are experiencing unfair treatment, hazardous conditions, and layoffs at an unmatched rate.

In Solidarity,

Your Comrades at the Southern Maine Workers’ Center

Solidarity is Always the Answer: how we’re taking collective care & action in a time of crisis

Dear Friends, 

The members, staff, and board of SMWC have been closely monitoring the rapidly changing news and impact of COVID-19 (coronavirus) and the response this week. The times we are in are uncertain and unknown. We’ve never been a Workers’ Center under circumstances like these, and we are trying to pivot quickly to respond to the needs of our community.

One thing that we do know is that a crisis can crystalize the underlying problems that created the crisis in the first place. And crises will be used by the corporations, the wealthy, and their interests to further profit off our hardship. However, if we organize, these moments can also open up new pathways to systemic solutions. As movement visionary Grace Lee Boggs has taught us, “a crisis is not only a danger but also an opportunity. With a human rights approach that centers universality and equity, we have the opportunity to weather this storm together. We have the opportunity to take care of each other and to continue to build power so that we all have what we need to thrive.

We are hearing from workers and other folks that this combination of public health and economic crisis is untenable and there is a need to get organized and take action. We want to help folks think about how to organize in this moment. We want to lift up the solutions coming from the collective imagining, resistance, and love of people who are most directly affected. We want, especially, to center the experiences and solutions of Black, immigrant, indigenous, and communities of color who will be disproportionately impacted by this crisis. 

It is in that spirit that we offer the updates and resources below. As always, please feel free to be in touch with any questions. We will respond as quickly as possible—but please be patient, as we’re a small staff navigating a lot right now. Thank you in advance. 

Solidarity is always the answer, 

DrewChristopher Joy, Executive Director & Meaghan LaSala, Board Chair

Collective Care & Community Organizing

First, we want to let you know what measures we are taking to help keep staff and members safe and our work accountable to our broader community:

  • Effectively immediately, staff will work remotely.
  • Committee and other meetings will be held online and/or over the phone. We will work with members to make sure they have access to and know how to use the technology they need to participate. 
  • Our Workers’ Rights Legal Clinic will be postponed indefinitely, though people will still be able to reach us through our Workers’ Support Hotline. 
  • We are postponing our Annual Meeting that was scheduled for Saturday, April 4th. We do not yet have a date for when that will be held. 
  • We’ll be working on setting up mutual aid to support SMWC members, their families, co-workers, and loved ones during this crisis. Let us know if you want to get involved by contacting 
  • We are assessing how we can best direct our resources to respond to the flood of contacts we are receiving from folks who are already feeling the economic strain of this crisis. 


We are taking these measures because, from what we have read, while individual risk remains low for many, the best thing we can do for the good of the community and society as a whole is to act immediately to “flatten the curve” or slow the exponential spread of the COVID-19. We encourage all of you to take the actions you can to limit physical contact and large gatherings, work from home, if you can, and wash your hands more than you ever have before. People who are older than 65, are immunocompromised, or have other health issues, or are caretakers of those folks, should take special care to limit physical contact with others. If we show up each other now, and act collectively, we can protect ourselves and each other for the long-haul.

Economic Impact

We are grateful to have the flexibility in our organizational work, to allow staff to largely work at home, and to shift our practices to accommodate the needs of this moment. Most workers, and many of our members, face very different circumstances. The economic impact will hit many more people directly and immediately than the virus itself. Businesses of all sizes must take responsibility to protect their workers and public health. City, state, and national governments must take actions to create policy that defends workers’ health, and lessen the economic impact on low wage workers, working class, and poor people. Marginalized people will carry the brunt of this crisis and policy must reflect that understanding. 

We are working to understand and address the cascading impact of this crisis on working class people, from work closings, to childcare, to housing issues. We’re also thinking about the demands we can make on policy and workplaces to make things better–now and in the future.  Please fill out our survey, so we can better understand what you are up against, and what we can collectively do about it.

Click here to fill out the survey!

Paid Sick Days

SMWC has said for years that our communities as a whole, including workers, businesses, and overall public health, are better off with a universal paid sick days policy. The reasons for that are now clearer than ever.

Unfortunately, the City of Portland and the State of Maine missed huge opportunities to be prepared for this crisis when they failed to pass and implement strong paid sick days ordinances last year. It’s now clear that a guaranteed 14 day paid sick day policy is the bare minimum of what employers should be providing to protect their employees and public health in a time of crisis. 

We are incredibly disappointed that Gov. Mills has encouraged employers to be “generous” with their paid time off policies, instead of simply moving up the implementation of the state paid time off law passed last year. Without the Governor’s support, this law—which has minimal coverage but would at least provide a starting point–won’t go into effect until January of 2021. We need more, now. 

Nationally, the “families first” coronavirus response bill, passed by the house on Friday, March 13th, includes temporary measures to support and protect workers, including 14 days of paid sick time, and enhanced family and medical leave for some workers. Universality is key for creating policy that actually serves its intended purpose. The paid sick days policy put forward in this bill excludes 80% of workers, including those who work at the largest corporations in this country. Democrats must move beyond optics, and actually fight for workers who are on the frontlines of this crisis. 

Businesses themselves can also lead the way–and in this moment they must. Many of the businesses that endorsed our paid sick days campaign already had or have implemented paid sick days policies. We call on all employers to implement policies now, if they haven’t already, especially if they publicly supported sick days legislation. It’s past time to live our values.  

Temporary & Permanent Work Closures 

We are already hearing from many of our members about the places they are working temporarily closing, leaving workers without hours and income they are dependent on. We’re also hearing from people who have lost hours or lost their jobs. The federal government has released new guidance to states to update unemployment law to help workers in several scenarios related to COVID-19, including temporary or permanent business closures, quarantine, care of a family member, and other circumstances. 

Gov. Mils is bringing legislation to implement this guidance in Maine, and it is very important that these measures pass. We will be working hard to ensure that Maine’s Department of Labor takes all measures possible to provide support for workers who have lost their jobs or hours. If you have lost work for any of these reasons, please contact us. We will also be offering a webinar on navigating unemployment insurance soon. 

We’ve heard from a few workers asking for their employers to close for the sake of public health and their health as workers. Many workers are feeling trapped at work, facing the impossible choice of forgoing public health recommendations or losing vital income.  40% of Americans don’t have enough reserves to deal with a $400 emergency. Many small businesses fear shutting down or not making payroll. To deal with the immediate crisis, we must demand action from lawmakers and employers to ensure that every person that needs it has access to paid time off and unemployment in order to stay afloat. We also support local, state or federal funding to help small businesses afford to do the right things by their employees and public health.

Health Care is a Human Right

If there ever was a moment to illustrate why universal, publicly funded health care is the only way to manage health care in a world in which we are all interconnected, this is that moment. We hope that this crisis can be the tipping point that leads the country to national Medicare for All. 

In the meantime, Maine should lead the way by ensuring that all testing and treatment related to the COVID-19 is free at the point of service for everyone regardless of their insurance status.

With Love & Solidarity

We will continue to update you as this crisis unfolds. In the meantime, please take care of yourselves & each other. Social distance doesn’t need to mean social isolation, and we will continue to organize, build power, and be in community with all of you. Together, we can keep fighting for the health, safety, and dignity of all our members—and, ultimately, for all of our communities. Solidarity forever.

We’re Hiring! Join the team as our Health Care is a Human Right Community Organizer

Health Care is a Human Right Community Organizer 

Job Description

This is a full time, exempt position. Benefits include ample paid sick time & vacation and health insurance. This is a one-year position starting on or about November 18, 2019 and ending on or about November 13, 2020. 

This position is housed within the Southern Maine Workers’ Center’s (SMWC) Health Care is a Human Right Committee.We believe that a health care system treated as a public good and based on human rights principles is a fundamental step toward economic and racial justice. We work on short term health care reform campaigns as part of our long-term campaign to transform the health care system to be universal and publicly financed. 

SMWC is a member-led, basebuilding organization. Outreach, member recruitment, grassroots mobilizations, leadership development, and political education are key to our theory of change. This position will work across all of SMWC’s program areas to develop and sharpen effective and transformational basebuilding practices. 

TO APPLY: Send a resume and cover letter to Applications are due on October 18, 2019. 


This position will coordinate the member-driven Health Care is a Human Right Committee to carry out campaigns for health care reform, arts and education projects, and coalition building with a focus on basebuilding and developing member leadership. Other responsibilities include creating campaign strategy and field plans, building and participating in local and national coalitions, and committee related communications. This position will also coordinate and supervise member and volunteer participation in HCHR programs. 

In addition to HCHR responsibilities, the position with work with staff and members to coordinate across all of SMWC’s committees and programs and support organization-wide events, policies, and education. 

Coordination & Supervision

  • Coordinate and support the part-time HCHR Organizer’s outreach & basebuilding work
  • Coordinate and supervise member-leaders’ programmatic work
  • Coordinate volunteers for events and data management

Outreach & Membership Development

  • Create field and outreach strategies for campaigns and programs
  • Recruit and activate members through outreach, follow up, and one-on-ones
  • Develop leadership development strategies for HCHR committee & SMWC as a whole


Coalition Building

  • Identify and build relationships with new and existing community partners
  • Represent SMWC in related local and national coalition meetings
  • Coordinate coalition and community partner meetings  


HCHR Leadership Committee (HCHR-LC)

  • Coordinate the HCHR-LC or other HCHR committees, including member attendance and participation, and ensuring that members are accountable for work between meetings. 
  • Create agendas for meetings or work with members to create agendas
  • Facilitate decision making and planning by the committee


Health Care Policy

  • Be or become knowledgeable about state and local health care policy, including Medicare for All, single payer, medicaid, and MaineCare, and other relevant policy. 
  • Support and develop policy and legislative advocacy strategies



This job has fluctuating hours with a combination of self-directed and committee-directed scheduling. Must be able to work some nights and weekends (for meetings and events) in addition to weekdays. Position is supervised by the Executive Director, and works in coordination with the HCHR-LC Leadership Committee members. 


  • At minimum 3-5 years experience with transformative labor and/or community organizing, including one-on-one organizing conversations, facilitation, leadership development, event coordination, campaign development; and a willingness to talk to strangers
  • Self-directed; able to work independently
  • Comfortable working collectively (including group decision-making, collaborative writing, and meeting/event co-facilitation)
  • Aligned with the SMWC’s political orientation, community agreements, and goals as outlined in the SMWC Membership Agreements and Values Statement
  • Experience with policy and legislative advocacy
  • Demonstrated writing skills
  • Ability to speak multiple languages is ideal
  • Women, People of Color, LBGTQ people, poor and working class people are encouraged to apply. 

Rep. Larry Lockman’s Scapegoating and Fearmongering are Intended to Keep Maine too Paralyzed to Envision a Better Future

By Peggy Marchand, Health Care is a Human Right Committee Member

The Southern Maine Workers’ Center endorsed  LD 1317, “An Act To Restore Services To Help Certain Noncitizens Meet Their Basic Needs”, as part of our Health Care is Human Right campaign. We believe all people should get the health care they need, and are organizing for universal health care in Maine and support Medicare for All nationally. We also believe that racism and xenophobia, are used by people in power to keep us from realizing our human rights. This essay a rebuttal to a hateful op-ed written by Rep. Larry Lockman in the Ellsworth American (we won’t drive more traffic to the post by linking it here),  which lays out why scapegoating and racism are keeping our state from finding solutions to the issues that impact all of us. 

Our friends at Maine Equal Justice have set a goal to get 500 messages to legislators to support two critical health care priorities for low-income Mainers!

In his recent article printed in the Ellsworth American, (Non-Citizen Welfare Shortchanges Maine Seniors, May 10, 2019) Rep. Lawrence Lockman states his dismay at “the avalanche of hideous legislation,” including LD 1317, the bill proposed by Representative Drew Gattine that that seeks restore eligibility for MaineCare and other safety net programs to immigrants. Like his old mentor and ally, former Governor Paul LePage, Lockman furiously casts blame and blatantly ignores facts, needs, and root causes.

Current economic issues in the state of Maine are far too serious and complex to use scapegoating to defend xenophobic points of view. Beyond the fact that we have a human obligation to welcome people fleeing political and economic hardship, the presence and contributions of the immigrants and refugees who move here may save Maine from a work force disaster.

Our state is in economic trouble and neither immigrants nor those who wish to find ways to support them are the causes of Maine’s work force crisis. Moreover, it is time to acknowledge that welcoming immigrants could be a huge help in Maine’s successfully weathering our labor crisis, one which analysts say is may be temporary right now, but is in danger of becoming permanent, unless we act to get more people into the work force. Economist Charles Colgan says, “Anything we’re doing now to keep immigrants out and anything we’re not doing to attract people to Maine from the rest of the US and the rest of the world, is going to be deadly for the next decade.” Why? Here are some facts:

Maine has the oldest median age, 44.5 years and the largest number of baby boomers of any state, who now are retiring in record numbers. Our work force is shrinking, and may be down 20,000 workers by 2020.  In 2017, we experienced 2,379 more deaths than births. The Maine Center for Disease Control and Preventions reports that more deaths will not only reduce the number of workers we have contributing their labor, but also warns of the serious impact fewer workers will have on public revenues. Our youth still flee the state for opportunities and lifestyle experiences they perceive are not offered in Maine; it’s hard to keep them here, let alone count on them to fill work force gaps.  And the shortfall is not theoretical, it has begun; the signs “We’re hiring! Help Wanted!” are everywhere. This is Maine’s reality. It will take all of us working together to keep Maine a welcoming place with a viable future. About this information, surely, Rep. Lockman must be aware.

However, in his article, Rep. Lockman chooses to call his House colleague Rep. Gattine “callous and uncaring about the plight of low-income Mainers” and drums up trouble and stirs up prejudices because Gattine is working to pass LD 1317, “An Act to Restore Services to Help Certain Noncitizens Meet their Basic Needs.” Rather than true addressing the human and economic reasons to restore basic public programs to all Maine residents, Lockman sidesteps by suggesting that monies spent on this bill would somehow result in more nursing home closings and that “residents will face the emotional trauma of being relocated further away from loved ones, all because a majority of legislators prioritize foreigners over Mainers.”

Indeed, nursing homes have been closing in Maine, and all across the country, particularly in rural areas.  But the closings are NOT caused by diverting funds from these facilities to immigrants. There are a number of other factors, decidedly unrelated to funding support for immigrants, that make these businesses decide, or feel forced, to close. Here are some: First, a public shift in thinking about nursing homes has led to more unoccupied rooms, which may sound surprising, considering our rapidly aging population. Rather than going to a nursing home, more folks are aware of community options and are using other resources, including in-home care, or assisted living options, or deciding to rely on family members to step up as care-takers. Empty rooms mean fewer funds coming in to support the expenses of these businesses.

Traditionally, nursing homes have survived on very slim profit margins and small financial changes can have large impacts. For many years, they faced low reimbursements from Medicaid, as Lockman pointed out. In fact, reimbursement plans and funding mechanisms continue to be very complicated. Additionally, in 2016, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid instituted a series of new regulations, with a five-year phase in. The requirements are stringent and expensive, costing each facility about $63,000 in the first year and $55,000 in subsequent years, regardless of their number of patients. The industry regards the new regulations as positive and beneficial to patients, but many smaller nursing facilities simply can’t swing the added costs and choose to close. Small town populations are literally dwindling. Families move away after finding their jobs gone, mills closed, and possible replacement jobs offering wages too low to live on. Suddenly, a local nursing home can find itself in a labor crunch, unable to keep doctors on call or find the nurses and support staff to keep all shifts filled 24 hours each day. The plight of the rural nursing home is very real and Lockman is absolutely right to point out how devastating this is to families and their loved ones.

However, Lockman must be called out fomenting racism rather than seeking a honest solution to this problem.  It is long past time to be finding ourselves dealing with leaders who want to make us angry or fearful of newcomers, or who want to separate us with false dichotomies of “us against them,” or use innuendo to make us suspicious. This kind of thinking keeps us locked in a world of prejudice and fear, too paralyzed to envision a better future. We can and must be better than that and look for real solutions to our hard-felt problems. Immigrants can and should be part of our solution. And that’s a fact.

We Applaud Progress on Paid Time Off & Pledge Continued Work to Ensure Protections for All Maine Workers

Southern Maine Workers’ Center and Maine Women’s Lobby Statement on LD 369

Groups Applaud Progress, Pledge Continued Work to Ensure Protections for All Maine Workers

Now that Governor Mills has signed LD 369 into law, Maine will become the 12th state in the country to enact a version of a paid sick time policy, and the first state to pass a general paid time off policy. LD 369 is an important step forward for the workers in Maine who have never been guaranteed any paid time off, and that is something to celebrate. We are proud of the role members of the Southern Maine Workers’ Center and the Maine Women’s Lobby have played for years to elevate the need for paid time off, and to engage workers in fighting for it. We will continue that work until every working person in Maine is covered.

The Southern Maine Workers’ Center and the Maine Women’s Lobby partnered on the issue of earned paid sick time since 2016 and with, the Southern Maine Democratic Socialist of America, built the Keep Workers’ Healthy Coalition that fought a multi-year campaign for an earned paid sick days ordinance in Portland. This bill would have ensured workers in every Portland business could earn up to 5 paid sick days a year.

In rallies, hearings, and on social media, workers bravely stood up for the right to earned paid sick days. Many shared personal stories ranging from sending children to school sick, to experiencing domestic assault, to getting violently ill while working and not being allowed to leave. They spoke on the record to ensure that they, and others, could have the right to heal that so many professionals take for granted. The language of the policy was informed by the lived experience of workers involved in the campaign and the experiences of states and municipalities who had already enacted laws. Our campaign framed paid sick days as a race and gender equity issue, and highlighted the experiences of marginalized workers, including LGBTQ+ families and immigrant communities. We made a compelling case that policy should be universal and cover all workers including part-time, seasonal, and per diem, and include businesses of all sizes.

LD 369 is an important step, and we are grateful in particular, to the leadership of Sen. Rebecca Millet for bringing forward the original legislation. However, work still needs to be done. As amended, the bill excludes people who work at businesses with less than ten employees, seasonal workers, some per diems, state and municipal workers, and others. It has a low accrual rate, making it difficult for part-time workers to use. It includes a preemption clause, which, as intended, undermined the Portland ordinance, and prevents any municipality from passing a more inclusive ordinance in the future. Because of this, some of the very workers who started the push for earned paid sick days in Maine will not be covered by the state law.

We are particularly concerned about the need to ensure protections for workers who attempt to use PTO, including protection from retaliation. The bill contains no definition of what constitutes the emergency use of PTO and places that determination in the hands of managers, leaving workers vulnerable to retaliation.

We will continue to organize to ensure that the rules for how LD 369 is implemented address these needs. Our members will bring their first-hand knowledge to these policy conversations to make sure that workers will actually be able to use the time off they earn for the things they most need it for. When LD 369 goes into effect in 2021, we will educate workers about their rights, and advocate for the workers whose rights are violated. The laws protecting workers are not given, they are fought for, and we will continue that fight.

Dental Care Is Healthcare And Healthcare Is A Human Right

The Maine legislature is considering a bill that would provide access to basic dental care for adults and children on MaineCare. “An Act To Improve Dental Health for Maine Children and Adults with Low Incomes” (LD-1453) would be an important step forward for Maine. As someone who’s been impacted by not having access to dental care I’d like to share my own experience and why dental care is so important.

Growing up I was covered under my parents dental insurance and in my late teens I had a bridge installed after my dentist extracted a molar that never fell out. The dentist recommended a bridge, and thankfully the costs were mostly covered under my mothers dental insurance. As it turns out, bridges don’t last forever, and about 6 years later the bridge fell out, leaving only one side of my mouth functional. When they installed the bridge, they filed down the teeth on either side of the extracted tooth to hold the bridge in place. After the bridge fell out, these teeth were particularly vulnerable to decay and infection because most of the enamel had been filed away when the bridge was installed.

It’s been about 13 years since I’ve had dental insurance and when my bridge fell out, I waited to see a dentist because it would have been a financial stretch just to get it looked at, let alone whatever it would cost to fix. When I finally did see a dentist they told me it would cost about $4,000 dollars to replace the bridge, which would include some work to fix the exposed teeth. There was no way I could afford that, and so my only option was to continue without the bridge, and risk additional problems with my exposed teeth. Soon enough, one of the exposed teeth got infected and had to be pulled. It took a week for the pain to be bad enough for me to setup an appointment with my dentist, again because it was a financial stretch, because I didn’t have dental insurance.

I brush everyday, I floss a couple times a week, yet I was constantly worried about my dental health after my bridge fell out. I can no longer use the right side of my mouth. If I had access to basic dental care I could have seen a dentist immediately after my bridge fell out, I could have scheduled routine cleanings and checkups, I might have been able to afford getting the bridge repaired or replaced, and I certainly would have avoided the excruciating pain that came with waiting longer than I should have to get the infection looked at.

Not having access to basic dental care when on MaineCare leads to frustrating and painful experiences. It can turn small dental issues into major ones that can lead to other health complications and exponentially higher costs. One out of every three low income Mainers have experienced discriminations based on the appearance of their teeth. This gap in MaineCare bolsters some of the worst ways that classism shows up in Maine. As Sarah Smarsh puts it: “the underprivileged are priced out of the dental-treatment system yet are perversely held responsible for their dental condition.”

We can do better. The state of Maine should pass LD 1453, “An Act To Improve Dental Health for Maine Children and Adults with Low Incomes”, and join the majority of other states around the country in providing dental benefits to people on MaineCare. Dental care is health care and health care is a human right!

Thank you.

Mike Lacourse
Member & Organizer
The Southern Maine Workers Center
Portland, Maine

Portland City Council Plays Politics With 9,000 Workers’ Health

May 8th, 2019

Statement of the Southern Maine Workers’ Center

On Monday, the Portland City Council voted 5-4 to reject an ordinance that would have guaranteed earned paid sick days for all Portland workers, regardless of whether they’re part-time, temporary, per diem, or seasonal. City Councilors Spencer Thibodeau (who is running for mayor), Justin Costa (who is also running for mayor), Jill Duson, Nick Mavodones, and Kimberly Cook voted against their colleagues in the Health and Human Services Committee by not supporting the 15 months of work they put into writing an ordinance to meet the unique needs of Portland’s workers and families. They also voted against their constituents, who consistently showed up to hearings in overwhelming majority to the opposition. Workers bravely organized and advocated for the right to earned paid sick time.  

Immediately after the hearing, Arlo Hennessy of the Southern Maine Workers’ Center (SMWC) reflected to supporters gathered outside Council chambers, “Only two city representatives tonight talked about working-class people. It was Councilor Belinda Ray and it was Mayor Ethan Strimling. That is unacceptable.”

“What we saw in that room tonight does not represent our values as a city,” said SMWC executive director DrewChristopher Joy. “They are afraid of the fact that we have organized. They are afraid of the fact that working class people in this city are rising up. This is not an end to the conversation. We will not stop fighting for working class people, for people of color, for women, for trans and queer folks in this city. We will fight for economic justice.”

The vote preceded passage of LD 369 through the Maine Senate, with amendments penned by Governor Janet Mills, which ignores much of the coalition work that went into drafting the original bill. An estimated 9 thousand Portland workers will be left out of the state bill, including some who started this very campaign. The amendments would also block local municipalities from implementing their own paid sick leave rules, a process known as preemption. Preemption is not beneficial to Portland workers as it allows no way for the city to choose to implement a paid sick days policy that will cover all workers–as the local ordinance would have.

The dissenting members of City Council are clearly showing their hand as being on the side of the Chamber of Commerce, MaineHealth, and Wex, the big business entities that have fought against the campaign from the beginning, rather than Portland’s low-wage workers, the true backbone of our economy.

We are thankful to the more than 40 organizations and businesses in the Keep Portland Healthy Coalition and the coalition working with Sen. Rebecca Millett for shepherding LD 369 through the legislative process. We urge Gov. Mills to strike preemption from her amendment, and we call on the Portland City Council, the Portland Delegation, and the Joint Standing Committee on Housing and Labor to oppose this dangerous precedent. While we celebrate steps forward on this issue, we have always advocated that earned paid sick days are a universal right for all workers and we will continue to do so.

Earned paid sick days: Portland should not wait for the state, unedited

I’ve been involved in the campaign to pass a universal earned paid sick time ordinance in the city of Portland since late June 2017. Over nearly twenty two months, I’ve been impressed by the growth in our coalition and the snowballing of public involvement in the campaign. After the most recent city council hearing, where we heard from fifty supporters of EPSD, I noticed that none of the media coverage picked up on the level of popular support for the ordinance and wrote this letter in response to an article published by the Bangor Daily News. Although my letter fell within their prescribed 200 word limit, they printed it without noting that we outnumbered our opponents five to one at the hearing, and they left out the letter’s last sentence, which directly took city councilors to task for dragging their feet on an issue that voters care about. I believe that the Bangor Daily News’s decision to publish a weakened version of my letter is representative of the media’s general failure to report the full extent of public support for earned paid sick time. My original letter appears below:

I attended the recent Earned Paid Sick Leave hearing in front of the Portland City Council. I’d like to supplement your coverage of the hearing (see here) so that readers better understand the issue. First, large employers’ concerns about losing their PTO policies are unfounded. The Portland ordinance allows businesses to enact an equivalent PTO policy. To quote section 35-2(h): “If an Employer provides paid time off to employees under a PTO, vacation or other policy that complies with [the EPSD ordinance], the Employer is not required to track and keep a separate record of accrual and use of earned sick time”.

Second, your article failed to convey the magnitude of grassroots support for this ordinance. On April eighth, fifty people testified in support of the ordinance, and only ten in opposition. Supporters were workers, parents, small business owners, and union members. Having watched over fifteen months of deliberation, we are ready for the council to vote on this important public health measure. Testimony at the previous two hearings suggests that Portland voters care about Earned Paid Sick Leave. In November, we will remember those councilors who, without regard for public opinion or public health, decided to “wait for the state”.

Morgana Warner-Evans


1115 Waiver Approved – Mainers Unite to Defend MaineCare

In October we launched our campaign against the 1115 MaineCare waiver, because these attacks on MaineCare will move us further away from our vision of a universal, publicly funded health care system. Yesterday, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) approved Maine’s 1115 waiver application, paving the way for thousands of Mainers to lose their health care coverage. Just as we are finally poised to win MaineCare expansion, the LePage-appointed DHHS administration continues advancing its agenda to dismantle MaineCare. We are committed to stoping the implementation of the waiver, and to building a powerful movement to win a health care system based on our human rights, not corporate profits. Read our press release about the approval below.

For Immediate Release
Contact: Meaghan LaSala

Portland, ME: The Southern Maine Workers’ Center and coalition partners are committed to stopping implementation of Maine’s 1115 Demonstration Waiver, approved Friday, December 21st by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). If implemented, the 1115 Waiver will fundamentally restructure MaineCare, stripping many people of their access to care by creating deadly bureaucratic and financial barriers. In Arkansas where similar measures have been implemented, thousands of Medicaid recipients have lost coverage.

On October 28, The Southern Maine Workers’ Center launched a campaign against the waiver, and has been organizing Mainers who would be impacted by the changes.

Mark James is a member of the Southern Maine Workers’ Center, and a MaineCare recipient. James said at the campaign-launch, “I wasn’t working when I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma the first time. I knew if I hadn’t had MaineCare I probably would have died. I was living in Aroostook county, in rural northern Maine, where there are not a lot of jobs. They say this is to incentivize work. I say these requirements are set up to kick working poor people off of MaineCare.”

DHHS misleadingly portrays the 1115 waiver as a way to incentivize work in order to distract from its aims to cut access to healthcare, stigmatize low-income people, undercut both MaineCare and the Affordable Care Act, and transfer resources from poor people to corporations and the wealthy. In addition to punitive work requirements, the changes would include new cost burdens, premiums, penalties and fees, asset tests, fines for missed appointments, and burdensome, expensive paperwork.
For more information about the campaign against the waiver, contact Workers’ Center member Meaghan LaSala: 973-862-7105,