Attorneys Valerie Wicks and Shelby Leighton represent Portland workers in the fight for hazard-pay

Workers at Whole Foods Market are striking back against a lawsuit filed by the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce to overturn a voter-approved minimum wage-ordinance that would grant hazard pay to essential workers in the city during the pandemic.

On Thursday, attorneys representing Caleb Horton and Mario Roberge-Reyes, two workers at Whole Foods in Portland, filed a motion to intervene in the Chamber’s lawsuit, which asks a judge to either strike down the city ordinance or postpone its implementation until at least 2022.

Shelby Leighton, one of three Johnson, Webbert & Garvan attorneys representing the Whole Foods workers, countered that the Chamber “is trying to block the unmistakable will of the people of Portland.”

“Voters weighed the pros and cons and then sent a clear message that yes, despite the increase in costs for employers, it is absolutely necessary to compensate essential workers for the grave sacrifices they are making for the good of us all. This is what democracy looks like,” Leighton said.

Attorney Valerie Wicks, of Johnson, Webbert & Garvan, said that she agrees with the 62 percent of Portland voters who supported November’s ballot initiative to raise wages for low-income workers during the pandemic.

“The pay for these frontline workers should reflect their extra effort and sacrifice during this unprecedented public health emergency,” Wicks said.

Read the full Bangor Daily News article here.


Two Whole Foods workers have intervened in a lawsuit challenging Portland’s new ordinance that sets the minimum wage at $18 an hour during declared emergencies.

The workers asked the court to enforce the ordinance, arguing that it was the will of voters and that people reporting to their jobs during the pandemic deserve to be paid fairly.

Their attorneys, Valerie Wicks and Shelby Leighton, said the two workers were not available for interviews. Leighton said the parties could ask the Maine Supreme Judicial Court to decide the case, or they could pursue it in Cumberland County Superior Court, where the documents have been filed so far. The latter course could mean a decision in January or February, the attorney said.

Read the full Portland Press Herald article here.