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Business and Economy

Preble Street workers score salary increases with new union contract

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Tom Porter
/
MPBN

The union representing employees at Preble Street, the non-profit organization with locations in Portland, Lewiston and Bangor, said it's reached a deal on a new two-year collective bargaining agreement.

The contract will include an $18 hourly minimum wage and a new salary scale designed to retain long-time employees.

Wages for current employees will go up between $3.50 and $5.50 an hour, which amounts to a 17-to-21% salary increase over the next two years.

Andrew Volkers, a COVID equity outreach worker and vice president for Preble Street United, said the wage increases reflect the rising cost of living in Maine.

"We found a lot of us were either having to work multiple jobs or really struggling with our budgets," he said.

Employees with multi-lingual skills will earn additional compensation under the new contract. The agreement also includes a new bereavement policy that's designed to be more inclusive for employees with different cultural backgrounds.

Volkers said Preble Street workers, who are part of the Maine Service Employees Association, were inspired by other labor movements around the country and in Maine. He believes the new agreement will empower employees, who are working to meet the increasing demand for housing, food pantry and other community services.

"Now that we have some more security and safety nets in place for ourselves, our services to clients can only improve," he said.