- Labor issues came to a head at Portland Pie Co. when employees at the Old Port, Maine store walked out in protest of allegedly lax safety protocols and lack of communication from management about positive COVID-19 cases.
- “We didn’t know how else to draw attention to what we’ve been screaming for months,” one employee told a regional manager in a text message.
Nine employees of the Old Port, Maine location of Portland Pie Co. walked off the job and left their manager alone on Sunday, January 2, in protest of management’s allegedly lax COVID-19 safety protocols, according to the Bangor Daily News.
The newspaper reports that the employees left in the mid-afternoon period on Sunday after cashing out all the customers. The restaurant reopened for dinner.
In a note to a manager, bartender Ashley McAndrew reportedly said employees weren’t being kept sufficiently informed of positive COVID-19 cases among their coworkers. She alleged that at least five employees had tested positive for the virus over the past month, but communications on the outbreak from managers were minimal. She also complained about understaffing, disorganization, technology malfunctions and a lack of appreciation for employees working longer hours due to staffing issues.
Portland Pie owns five restaurants and has three franchises in Maine. CEO Jeff Perkins told the Bangor Daily News that the chain is in compliance with state and federal health recommendations and has required all employees to wear masks since Maine saw an uptick in positive COVID-19 cases in recent weeks. He added that the restaurant conducts immediate contract tracing when an employee tests positive for the virus.
The company closed its Bangor location temporarily for sanitization in September 2020 after some employees tested positive for COVID-19. In an Instagram post on Tuesday, January 4, of this year, Portland Pie Co. announced that it was closing its Portland and Brunswick locations “for the safety of our customers and staff … for a brief time.”
In a post on Instagram, McAndrew said the restaurant’s management was afraid of losing customers and employees if it placed “masks recommended” on the door. “Despite voicing our concerns to corporate over the past few months and even offering suggestions for change, it is not somewhere I feel safe or appreciated anymore,” she wrote in the post.
McAndrew also sent a text to a regional manager, saying the employees walked out because “we didn’t know how else to draw attention to what we’ve been screaming for months.”
The manager responded, “I’m sorry to hear that staff isn’t feeling appreciated. I’ll make sure to take all this into account when figuring out what to do going forward.”
Bartender Lauren Saxon, who did not participate in the walkout, said Portland Pie had been following safety protocols earlier but found it difficult to get employees to wear masks, and some employees remain unvaccinated. “We’d encourage restaurants, not just Portland Pie, to go back to increasing protocols to keep everyone safe,” Saxon told the Daily News. “That’s our biggest concern.”