PORTLAND (NEWS CENTER MAINE) – Dozens of people gathered in Portland Tuesday afternoon for a rally to support a paid sick leave ordinance in the city.
The ordinance would affect all of the 19,000 or so people who work in Portland.
The rally preceded a city council committee meeting about the ordinance where some in Portland's business community said they don't want a paid sick time change of any kind.
“Though I tried to wash my hands and keep as much of a distance as possible, I was still interfacing with vulnerable clients and children at my jobs,” said Philippa Adam, a service industry employee in Portland. “Why do we not explicitly protect our most vulnerable workers?”
Jessica Sheahan co- owns Cong Tu Bot, a Vietnamese restaurant in the city.
She told Tuesday’s crowd she agrees with Adams.
“We were servers, we were baristas, we were cooks, we've experienced first-hand, the physical and mental demands of service work,” she said. “It is tough and it is skilled labor that demands a lot of your body.”
Among business owners, opinions about the ordinance are more divided.
The ordinance would require businesses to give, among other things, one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked.
A representative for one of Maine's largest employers says the ordinance is a non-starter for her group.
“There is no tweak or change that would make this worth pursuing in this city,” said Judy West, Senior Vice President of Human Resources at MaineHealth. “We believe this creates a tremendous amount of problems and will be a take -away for our employees.”
MaineHealth, like other employers at Tuesday's meeting, says it already offers a more flexible paid time-off program than the ordinance would allow.
Other business representatives didn't outright say the ordinance was bad, but instead had concerns and want city leaders to be careful as this discussion moves ahead.
Portland’s full city council is not expected to take the ordinance up until summer.