AUGUSTA, MAINE — The experiences of frontline workers during the pandemic offer lessons beyond the immediate public health threat, according to a new report released today by the Maine Center for Economic Policy. They point to a general undervaluing of work that is sometimes deemed critical or essential, and a broad lack of worker power to improve conditions in their workplace. Maine policymakers must learn from the COVID-19 pandemic and recession, and ensure that in the future, nobody is left behind.
In State of Working Maine 2021, MECEP economic policy analyst James Myall examines the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on working Mainers and the effectiveness of policymakers’ responses. The report illustrates the ways in which policymakers must learn from the pandemic in crafting new policy that improves conditions and supports, and the opportunities which are presented in this moment of rebuilding to create a fairer economic system which works for everyone — not just those at the top.
VIRTUAL PRESS EVENT: TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 9, 10 A.M.
For additional insight and perspectives, and to ask questions, members of the media are invited to attend and cover a virtual press event on Tuesday, November 9 from 10-10:30 a.m. Speakers include:
- James Myall, Maine Center for Economic Policy, author of State of Working Maine
- David Cooper, Economic Policy Institute, director of the Economic Analysis and Research Network (EARN)
- Rep. Ryan Fecteau, Speaker of Maine House of Representatives
- Suzy Young, Maine AFL-CIO Unemployment Assistance group organizer
Click here to register.
Note: this event is for members of the media only and is not open to the public.
- Mainers who worked in-person were 50 percent more likely to contract COVID than remote workers
- Black Mainers were more than twice as likely to have contracted COVID than white Mainers
- COVID worsened existing challenges for women and people of color
- Greater supports and program improvements are needed to adequately empower and protect frontline workers
- Job losses were concentrated among workers with low income, and especially women and people of color
- Low-wage employment sectors saw the biggest layoffs, slowest recovery
- There is a clear need for further structural change to improve state and federal responses to public health emergencies
- Implement a livable minimum wage
- Increase the scope of Maine’s paid time off law
- Create a statewide paid family and medical leave law
- Empower workers through greater workplace protections
- Encourage and facilitate the formation of unions in the workplace
- Strengthen and improve state and federal unemployment insurance programs
- Expand Medicaid eligibility
- Enforce existing anti-discrimination laws
- Invest in workforce development programs aimed at people of color
- Reform scheduling practices
- Subsidize child care
“The unexpected onset of the COVID-19 pandemic exposed many flaws in our economic system and made it clear just how vulnerable many Maine workers were,” writes Myall. “The arrival of the pandemic itself was unexpected, but much of the resulting fallout was not. Issues like a lack of worker power, poor wages, and a lack of access to paid leave were well-known for years. The difficulties employers face in staffing support were similarly predictable in industries that have long been notable for their low wages, poor benefit provision, and unpredictable scheduling practices. Larger structural barriers such as access to child care and racial and ethnic discrimination were no secret.”
For Maine’s economy to recover from COVID-19, workers must have the opportunity to return to a market that ensures they can provide for themselves and their families. This can be achieved through laws that improve working conditions and programs that remove barriers to work.
“It is urgent for policymakers to address the needs of workers in Maine, both to recognize the hardships incurred by working Mainers over the past 18 months and to ensure a robust recovery to an economy that is stronger and more inclusive,” writes Myall.
Click here to read State of Working Maine 2021.