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June 17, 2019

Preble Street workers unionize

Employees of Preble Street, a nonprofit social service agency based in Portland, voted to organize and will join a labor union.

Workers voted 90-11 to organize and join the Service Employees International Union Local 1989, and will soon begin bargaining collectively for their first contract, according to a news release Friday.

Preble Street provides shelters, soup kitchens and other resources for people experiencing homelessness and poverty, and has offices in Portland, Bangor and Lewiston. Workers says the unionization will help them obtain better pay and working conditions, and ultimately enhance services for clients.

Preble Street workers
Courtesy / AFL-CIO
Preble Street workers Leslie Torkelson, left, and Philippa Adam display a ballot tally after the social service agency's employees voted to unionize.

“Now we will finally have the collective strength to secure better wages and improve management’s support and communication so that we can do our jobs better,” Preble Street kitchen employee Philippa Adam said in the release.

Leslie Torkelson, who works as a case manager for Preble Street’s veterans housing services in Lewiston, said, “The vote was a landslide and we are ready to stand up for ourselves and our clients.”

In anticipation of the vote, Preble Street issued a written statement last month, saying, “We absolutely respect the rights of employees and all workers to form and join a union, and we recognize and honor our shared values and commitment to the mission of Preble Street.”

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