I founded Borealis Bread in June 1993 when we started baking artisan breads and sourdough breads in the basement space in downtown Waldoboro. Twenty-seven years later, we have 43 employees who operate our bakeries in Waldoboro and Wells.

The secret to bread baking is having the right balance, between the different grains and between the time and temperature for proofing the bread. The same is true with running a small business such as ours. When our employees have a good work-life balance it helps our business to thrive.

In the baking world, burnout doesn’t just refer to burnt bread. It also means employees who feel overworked and undervalued. It’s what happens when workers are forced to work extra hours without pay.

As a baker, I can tell you the recipe for a successful small business: Value your employees. That includes valuing their time and allowing them to have a life outside of work and adequate time to spend with their friends, family and community so that they can come back to work renewed and ready to give their all.

That’s why I support L.D. 402, An Act to Restore Overtime Protections for Maine Workers, introduced by Rep. Ryan Tipping.

Just like I can’t do much with a burnt loaf of bread, I can’t do much with a burnt-out worker. They’re not productive, happy or healthy. Studies show that productivity decreases dramatically the more you work, with employees who work 70 hours per week completing the same amount of work as those working 55 hours a week.

We have one employee who has been with our business for 24 years. She has worked her way up from delivery driver to chief operating officer. She knows our business like no other, and her institutional knowledge is key to our success. It may seem simple, but it takes years to learn how to bake the perfect loaf of bread, and it also takes years to learn how to run a bakery well. She has stayed for so long because she feels valued. She knows that we value her enough to let her spend time with her family and not force her to work extra hours without extra pay.

However, that’s often not the case. Just 20 percent of salaried workers in Maine are allowed to earn overtime. That’s just not right. Not only is it wrong; it hurts small businesses. Most small-business owners treat their employees well because we want to treat our employees just the way we would like to be treated if we were in their shoes. In contrast, the CEOs and shareholders of large corporations have no connection with their employees, which makes it easy to take advantage of them. That’s why in November McDonald’s settled a $26 million lawsuit with 38,000 workers for overtime violations and wage theft in California. Those same practices occur all the time at large chains here in Maine, but in contrast to California, where the overtime threshold is around $55,000, our overtime standards are so weak that such abuses are often legal.

I advocated strongly for the minimum-wage increase and have always paid above the minimum wage, but unprotected overtime is undercutting those gains for countless workers. Since the minimum-wage increase, numerous unscrupulous employers have circumvented the law by converting their hourly employees into salaried employees. That has allowed them to pay their employees a low salary and then force them to work long hours, effectively paying them below the minimum wage.

Overtime abuses create a race to the bottom that punishes small-business owners for doing the right thing. You shouldn’t need to take advantage of your workers in order to be competitive. We shouldn’t be creating a race to the bottom but rather a race to the top.

And small-business owners across our state agree. That’s why 52 small-business owners from 32 cities and towns have publicly endorsed L.D. 402, An Act to Restore Overtime Protections for Maine Workers. It’s a recipe for strong small businesses and happy and healthy workers.

 


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