Stories from Maine Workers - Brandy Staples, Phippsburg

Stories from Maine Workers – Brandy Staples, Phippsburg

BrandyI’ve worked retail jobs at big box stores on and off for many years. At these kinds of jobs, you need to be trained in several areas so that you can be pulled from what you are doing and told to do something else at any point. Retail work does not pay you for your expertise and knowledge; you must know how to do everything in your store at one low wage.

Every morning, at any retail establishment that I've worked, at you will have a morning meeting to go over any store issues, the day's finances and any promotions coming up. In this meeting be prepared to have everything be your fault. It’s your fault that the numbers weren't met the day or the week before. It’s your fault that the customer refused add-on purchases. It’s your fault when the store is short-staffed and a customer steals 10,000 worth of merchandise (because there was no staff coverage for that area of the store). More than once, I’ve seen “offenses” like these be used to cut workers’ hours or strip down their job titles.

My biggest pet peeve about working in any retail establishment is the fact that minimum wage workers are the ones that are keeping their company afloat, while the big CEO's sit around and collect profits. The minimum wage workers, who are keeping the company alive, are not valued for their hard work. They are treated as a dime a dozen, usually get little-to-no recognition and rarely get any benefits. This needs to stop.

Raising Maine’s minimum wage to $12 would benefit me in many ways. I currently work two part time jobs at close to minimum wage, plus I help my parents with their business. With these three jobs, I still don’t make enough to get by. It would be nice to work only one job, have more time off to enjoy life and enough income so I could get ahead in my bills and get out of debt. At this point I don't even have any retirement savings. I also had a potentially fatal illness and a lot of my income in the past few years has gone to a huge chunk of medical expenses.

To me, economic fairness means that no one gets left behind; that everyone has equal opportunities for job advancement, decent pay, adequate recognition for a job well-done, and decent benefits.