2,000 Nurses in Maine Join Union
In the biggest union win of 2021, nurses in Maine defeated an intense anti-union campaign
In the largest union victory of 2021, 2,000 nurses have voted to join the Maine State Nurses Association and the National Nurses United (NNU) union. The nurses are based in Portland and work for the state’s largest hospital, Maine Medical Center.
The vote was held by mail-in ballot and the union won with 1,001 voting yes and 750 voting no. The bargaining unit will cover all nurses who work at Maine Medical Center, the Scarborough Surgery Center, and Maine Medical Center’s Brighton campus, which is also in Portland. “It’s a new day for nurses and patients across Maine,” Cokie Giles, president of the Maine State Nurses Association, said in a statement. “I am thrilled for my colleagues at Maine Med, for their resolve to win a collective voice for their patients and their community. And I look forward to working with you for the future of high-quality patient care for all Maine residents.”
In the lead-up, to the election, the parent company, MaineHealth, brought high-priced anti-union consultants, Florida-based Reliant Labor Consultants, to try and stop the organizing effort. The company was also caught pushing these consultants to the front of the vaccination line. At the time, only frontline workers were eligible for the vaccine, meaning the consultants were not eligible to get the shot. This drew a rebuke from Maine Gov. Janet Mills (D) who chastised the hospital for administering the vaccines to the consultants, calling it “an inexcusable act.” She went on to say in a statement “Vaccinating out-of-state contractors who came here to disrupt a union organizing effort was an insult to the hardworking nurses trying to assert their rights and to those who are waiting patiently for their turn.”
Nurses at MaineHealth had previously tried to organize with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in 2000, but that was narrowly rejected. The workers announced in January their intent to form a union and ballots were mailed out on March 29th. Votes were counted by the National Labor Relations Board on Thursday, April 29th.
“After a tough year responding to a global pandemic, MMC nurses deserve to have their voices heard and respected by management when it comes to providing first-rate care to Maine patients,” said Senate President Troy Jackson (D-Allagash) said in a statement. “Now that the votes have been counted and it’s clear where nurses stand, I expect Maine Medical Center to stand by their own words so both parties can get to work negotiating a fair and transparent contract.”
In a statement following the vote, Maine Medical Center President Jeff Sanders noted that the hospital has seven days to review the results and challenge the election. This might mean that the company will try and reject the will of the workers and delay meaningful negotiations on the first contract.