Mass Layoff in Maine: Lessons Learned from the Maine Department of Labor and Peer Workforce Navigators
24 July 2023
In February 2023, COVID-19 test manufacturer Abbott Laboratories laid off at least 750 workers in Maine.1 The number of laid off workers could be as high as 1,000, but it is hard to quantify, as most of the workers’ employers of record were temporary agencies. Nearly all of these workers were people of color, many of whom were immigrants who fled unrest back home, and many of whom spoke French or Lingala, but not English and hailed from a wide variety of nations in Central and Southern Africa.2 Other workers included in the layoffs were from Cambodian, Vietnamese, Latin American, Afghan, Haitian, and Somali communities. Mass layoffs in a community are always difficult, but this particular case, in which hundreds of workers were laid off in an unfamiliar place where they have not had the time or resources to learn the language—at the tail end of a global pandemic that had already isolated people and strained public resources—is exponentially worse. These were workers who kept everyone else safe during the pandemic, but were then cast to the side, often laid off by their temp agencies via text message without even a full day’s notice.