Nurses at Maine Medical Center have voted by an overwhelming margin to keep the union that they opted to join last year, fending off a decertification effort backed by a right-wing legal group dedicated to rolling back workers’ ability to organize and bargain collectively.
The vote, held in person on August 17 and 18, favored the union even more heavily than the initial 1,001 to 750 vote in 2021.
A tally released late Thursday showed that the Maine Med nurses voted 1,108 to 387 in support of retaining the Maine State Nurses Association/National Nurses United as their collective bargaining representative, a nearly 75% vote in favor of the union.
Jonica Frank, a registered nurse at Maine Med and a member of the union’s bargaining team, said that “we have already negotiated historic improvements in pay, in working conditions, and on patient safety issues” since voting to join the union last year.
“A ‘no’ vote in this election would have meant that all these things could be taken away from us,” said Frank. “Once again in this election, we have spoken. And we are not going back!”
This week’s vote was spurred by a petition that Maine Med nurse Davin Brooks submitted to the National Labor Relations Board in June with the signatures of more than 500 fellow nurses. The petition called for a vote to decertify the union.
The decertification push was openly backed by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, an anti-union organization that said it provided “free legal assistance” to Brooks and other petition supporters.
“The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a right-wing, out-of-state organization that goes around trying to get workers to decertify their unions,” Mary Kate O’Sullivan, an RN in the medical-surgical unit of Maine Med, told the Portland Press Herald. “They thought because we were a new union, they could manipulate Maine Med nurses and overturn our 2021 election. But we just showed them the door.”
“The so-called ‘Right to Work Foundation’ is not welcome at Maine Med,” O’Sullivan added, “and it’s not welcome in Maine.”
According to the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), the foundation has “supplied the lawyers for most of the anti-union cases before the U.S. Supreme Court,” including the infamous Janus v. AFSCME case in which the high court ruled that public-sector unions can’t require non-members to pay fair-share fees to help cover collective bargaining costs.
CMD notes that the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation has ties to the Koch network.
In a statement last month, the foundation criticized the Maine State Nurses Association for failing to “produce a contract in over a year,” not mentioning that employer obstruction and hostility often delay contract progress for years.
One analysis estimates that, on average, it takes 409 days for newly unionized workers to secure a contract.
The Maine State Nurses Association said Thursday that it intends to complete the bargaining process with Maine Med within the next several weeks.
“We have now won two elections,” said Lucy Dawson, an emergency department RN. “Our historic first contract is next. We are going to keep building our union and its power to benefit our patients, our community, nurses at Maine Med, and across the state of Maine.”