Stories from Maine Workers - Tabatha Whalen, Portland

Stories from Maine Workers – Tabatha Whalen, Portland

I am a mother of two and a cashier at a convenience store, where I work for a little more than $8 an hour. I have spent all my life working minimum wage jobs and struggling to keep a roof over my family’s head. At one point, I was working two minimum wage jobs while homeless, having to keep one uniform on underneath the other, because I had barely any time between when one shift ended and the other began.

They say Maine is the “way life should be” but I don’t think that is true for a lot of families. I’ve spent many years working 18-22 hours a day, for example working 8 hour shifts at Dunkin Donuts and 10-11 hour shifts at McDonald’s, and still not earning enough to afford an apartment. Right now, I am working at a convenience store, where I was hired in January 2015 to work the third shift. When I asked for a schedule change, I was dropped to three days a week, which makes it even harder to make ends meet.

I currently owe two months of back rent, because when I have to make impossible choices between paying rent or putting food on the table for my kids, I always choose to feed my children first. I am the proud mom to Malachi, age 5, and Lydia, age 4. Up until this year, I was stuck in a relationship that I no longer wanted to be in but I couldn’t afford daycare and my partner was providing care to my kids while I was at work. For me, making $12 an hour would mean I would be able to save money for a car, which would allow me to live outside the expensive City of Portland.