SOUTH PORTLAND — City officials have joined 190 employers across Maine in making a commitment to pursue racial and social justice in the workplace in an initiative organized by the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce.

The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to authorize City Manager Scott Morelli to sign the chamber’s “Standing in Solidarity Commitment Pledge” on behalf of the city, which employs about 400 municipal workers.

The pledge calls on businesses and other organizations to commit to training and educating employees “to ensure that we are operating with values and standards which advance racial equity and social justice.”

Mayor Kate Lewis said the pledge builds on the city’s growing commitment to address systemic racism and support diversity in the wake of recent Black Lives Matter protests.

In June, South Portland became the first municipality in Maine to respond to calls to defund police, taking $25,000 from the police budget to establish a human rights commission that will address equity issues across city departments.

“The pledge adds another layer to our commitment to racial and social justice and equality,” Lewis said Wednesday. “The more organizations that make statements like this and track their progress to make sure change happens, the better the landscape will be for our diverse community members.”


The chamber promoted the pledge as a means to “combat racism and discrimination and to advocate for racial and social equity, diversity and inclusion in the workplace.” The deadline to join the effort is Friday. A full list of signatories will be announced next week.

“Employers in our community know there’s a role for them to play in promoting racial and social justice,” said Quincy Hentzel, chamber president and CEO.

To ensure the pledge leads to action, the chamber will offer an ongoing series of webinars and other events to help employers examine and improve practices related to hiring and retaining a diverse workforce. The first webinar, to be held next week, will address unconscious bias.

“We wanted to make sure this was more than just a statement,” Hentzel said. “There’s a lot we can do together and learn from each other. This is just the very first step. This is going to be a journey.”

Organizations that have signed onto the chamber’s pledge include financial and educational institutions, law firms, retailers, insurance companies and manufacturers, such as Evergreen Credit Union, Hannaford Supermarkets, Idexx, L.L. Bean, MaineHealth, the Portland Sea Dogs, the City of Portland and Masthead Maine, an independent media network that includes the Portland Press Herald.

The statement that accompanies the chamber’s pledge references the recent deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, which led to Black Lives Matter demonstrations in Maine and across the nation against police brutality and systemic racism.


“We, as leaders of Maine organizations, understand that when it comes to racial and social justice, silence is not an option,” the statement says. “We recognize that we have a responsibility to advocate for positive change and demonstrate our commitment to racial equity in our areas of influence, such as inclusive recruitment practices, addressing barriers to hiring and retaining foreign-trained professionals, and workplace programs to promote cross-cultural understanding.”

The organizations pledged to condemn racism in any form, have zero tolerance for discrimination and participate in authentic dialogues about race, diversity, equity and inclusion.

“We commit to continuously evaluate our own practices to ensure they live up to these values and standards and to educating our employees on racism and engaging in programs that advance racial equity,” the statement says. “We encourage our colleagues, our community partners, and each of our neighbors to join us as we promote racial and social justice throughout Maine.”

Hentzel noted that many supporters of the chamber’s pledge have been working independently on race and equity issues, including the University of Southern Maine, which posted a “Black Lives Matter Statement and Antiracism Pledge” on its website Wednesday.

President Glenn Cummings and his cabinet called on members of the USM community “to publicly commit to doing the work that is required to stamp out bigotry and end the conditions and structures that have suppressed Black, Indigenous and People of Color for too long.”

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