Goodwill employees protest pay, working conditions
BY JASON STARR
Employees at the Goodwill store in Williston left their posts Monday morning to protest low pay and unsustainable working conditions brought on by a staffing shortage.
A spokesperson for Goodwill Northern New England, Heather Steeves, acknowledged the staffing shortage and said the nonprofit has hired a consultant to complete a compensation study “to make sure everyone is compensated competitively while also ensuring we can remain a healthy nonprofit.”
A shift supervisor at the store, who asked to remain anonymous, said staff frustrations have been building in recent months resulting in Monday’s walk-out. She said future walk-outs would occur if the pay and working conditions don’t improve. As a supervisor, she makes $12.75 an hour. Entry-level employees make $12 an hour.
She said pay raises have been promised since January and have now been pushed out indefinitely. The staffing shortage has led employees to operate the store at less than half the required staff and do jobs they weren’t hired for, she said.
“Supervisors … have to do all the jobs in the whole store continually for like 13-hour shifts, then come back at night because there’s no one to close the store,” she said. “It’s just exhausting and our bodies just physically can’t do it anymore.”
Supervisors have called Goodwill Northern New England headquarters in Maine on days when they are extremely short-staffed asking for permission to close sections of the store they don’t have the staff to operate.
“We should be able to make the decision ourselves to close (sections) of the store, instead of having to call corporate, and they say, ‘oh you’re fine,’” the supervisor said. “Our main focus shouldn’t be keeping the doors open, it should be keeping our staff happy and safe and able to actually do the work. It’s impossible as it is.”
Steeves acknowledged the nonprofit is having difficulty finding employees.
“There is so much competition (for employees) in the Williston area right now and other employers are struggling, too,” she said. “That puts extra stress on our existing team members. We are working to try and find solutions and we hope that our teammates will stick with us through this difficult time.”
Steeves said Goodwill Northern New England has increased wages and added holiday bonuses in recent years. She also noted that employees receive health and retirement benefits and opportunities to consult with life counselors.