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9 employees walked off the job at a Maine pizzeria to protest an alleged lack of COVID-19 precautions

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  • Pizzeria employees in Maine walked off the job Sunday in protest.
  • Workers said that their employer wasn’t taking COVID-19 precautions seriously.
  • Workers across retail have staged walkouts to call out poor conditions. 

Workers at Portland Pie Co. in Portland, Maine walked off the job on January 2 to protest what they say are insufficient COVID-19 safety protocols, Bangor Daily News reported.

The chief complaint of the nine workers who walked out on Sunday was not being informed about cases of COVID-19 among staff and little communication about potential exposure, bartender Ashley McAndrew wrote on Instagram. She also mentioned understaffing and long working hours.

The pizzeria is “not somewhere I feel safe or appreciated anymore,” she wrote. “The company does not take COVID seriously, and have even gone as far as to not inform us when one of our own tests positive; instead just allowing us to continue working, unmasked, and putting ourselves, our families and our community at risk, just so they can continue to make money.”

Walking out was a last-ditch effort to make their concerns known, the workers said.

“We didn’t know how else to draw attention to what we’ve been screaming for months,” McAndrew, who has since quit, said of the walkout in a text to the regional manager, per Bangor Daily News.

“The intent was never for us all to quit but instead for us to do something to get their attention over this thing we’ve been screaming about for months,” bartender Lauren Saxon told The Washington Post.

Portland Pie Co. CEO Jeff Perkins told Insider the local chain reinstated a mask requirement for all workers, and follows all state and federal recommendations. He said that the chain carries out contact tracing whenever an employee tests positive for COVID-19.

“We are having open and productive conversations regarding how our entire team can work together to ensure health and safety protocols continue to be followed in all our locations,” Perkins told Insider.

Stories of employees walking off the job across retail have continued to make the news over the past year as workers are pushed to their limits. The entire industry has been impacted, from Chipotle to Apple to Dollar General.

Business owners say it’s a labor shortage, and they’re unable to find staff, and some even cite a lack of desire to work. But workers say they can demand better pay and benefits in the tight labor market. This mismatch has led to restaurants decreasing hours and closing dining rooms. 

Many workers have said they feel they have no choice but to leave these demanding service jobs, especially as they’re on the front lines of COVID-19 exposure against the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

Do you have a story to share about a retail or restaurant chain? Email this reporter at [email protected].

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