Portland Rally Calls For Universal Paid Sick Leave For Workers

Sep 4, 2018

Approximately 100 business owners, health care workers, immigrant leaders and organizers rallied in Portland Monday morning — Labor Day — in support of a campaign for earned paid sick time.

A marching band led supporters of universal paid sick leave from the Irish Heritage Center to Longfellow Square. Beneath the statue in the square, advocates spoke in favor of the proposal.

Marie Uwamahoro, a permanent resident, Rwandan immigrant, mother of 4 and health care worker, says no paid sick time puts her family at risk.

“If I don’t work that means my four kiddies and I, we are all dying. It’s not about myself. If I get sick I have to get medical treatment. I have to rest. I have to take care of myself,” she says.

DrewChristopher Joy of the Southern Maine Workers Center says universal health care would improve the lives of families.

“A lot of people are faced with an impossible decision to take time off and not get paid and not be able to pay the bills. Or go to work sick. And we’re really trying to make that problem go away,” Joy says. “This is an issue that particularly impacts servers in restaurants, cooks in restaurants, people who work at coffee shops, but also people that do one on one support work with someone who is sick or disabled or elderly, so people who are doing care work.”

People rally in Portland Monday.
Credit Willis Ryder Arnold / Maine Public

The Keep Portland Healthy Coalition says requiring Portland businesses to provide earned paid sick days would improve public health, cut some business costs, reduce employment turnover and increase worker productivity.

Portland’s City Council will review the proposal at a health and human services meeting Sept. 11.

Originally published Sept. 3, 2018 at 1:33 p.m. ET.