May 9, 2021

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2,000 nurses from Maine form a union in big election win

Nurses in Maine appear to have won one of the largest US union elections in recent years on Thursday, voting by a margin of 57-43 to join the Maine Nurses Association in the preliminary tally.

If the job board certifies election results by mail, the union would represent nearly 2,000 workers who work for the Maine Medical Center at three facilities, most of them in Maine Meade, Portland.

Union elections have become in which thousands of private sector workers participate rare In the United States, the vote in Maine is the largest this year except for the botched union campaign in which 5,800 workers at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama participated.

Pro-union nurses have stepped forward in Maine despite an anti-union campaign by the hospital. MainMed news surfaced earlier this year when it brought in advisers from outside the state to persuade workers not to join unions, and then vaccinated the advisers against state guidelines.

A nurse at Maine Medical Center gets vaccinated earlier this year.  The facility's nurses voted decisively over the unions

Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

A nurse at Maine Medical Center gets vaccinated earlier this year. The nurses at the facility voted decisively to join the unions.

Maine Nurses ’Association President Cookie Giles described it as” a new day for nurses and patients “in a statement about the election results.

“I am thrilled about my colleagues at Maine Med, for their determination to win a collective voice for their patients and their community,” said Giles.

The hospital has a week to file objections with the National Council for Labor Relations and said in a statement that it is “reviewing the election results,” but acknowledged that the union appears to have the support of the majority.

“We were hoping for a different outcome because we believe the best way for Maine Medical Center to remain the premier provider of medical care in the region is to work directly with members of our care team,” said Geoff Sanders, president of Maine Med, in a statement. .

The Maine Nurses Association is a subsidiary of United National Nurses, a union that represents 170,000 nurses across the country. NNU won another major election last year at Mission Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina, in which about 1,800 workers participated.

Winning in Maine was years in the making. The Maine Nurses Association tried unsuccessfully to set up a union at the hospital two decades ago.

Maine Med admitted that it violated Maine Guidelines by vaccinating out-of-state advisors.

This time, Maine Med hired Reliant Labor Consultants, a “union avoidance” company that helps employers block trips. After reports in the Portland Press Herald, the hospital admitted it had vaccinated some of these consultants who came from out of state, in violation of Maine’s vaccination guidelines. The vaccines came at a time when many frontline workers were still waiting for their shots.

The hospital said that the aim of the consultants “is to provide support to nurses and managers in answering questions about the impact of joining a union.” The policy violation led to Maine Gov. Janet Mills (D), who described it as “an unforgivable act.”

The union criticized the hospital not only for vaccinating defaulters, but for bringing in consultants in the first place.

“Hospitals are talking to nurses about the cost of creating a union, and how their costs will go up,” Giles told HuffPost in February. “I would like to know how much they spend on these advisors.”