Maine Med nurses vote overwhelmingly to ratify first union contract
Registered nurses at Maine Medical Center in Portland, Maine, ratified their first-ever union contract that they say will provide patient care protections and strong standards to improve retention and recruitment, announced Maine State Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee (MSNA/NNOC) today. Voting on the three-year agreement took place Wednesday and Thursday, Sept. 21 and 22.
“We feel the imperative of history in our vote,” said Michele Flaherty, bargaining team member and pediatric ICU registered nurse. “We stand in a long line of Maine Med nurses who have fought for their union over the past half a century. Nurses’ first attempt to unionize at Maine Med was in 1976.”
“We are overjoyed with how our coworkers have rallied around this contract,” said Emily Wilder, bargaining team member and cardiac ICU nurse. “We have made tremendous gains in patient safety protections and workplace improvements and have won raises that will really help us recruit and retain the nurses needed to care for our community. It’s no surprise that a commanding majority of Maine Med nurses voted to approve our first union agreement.”
MSNA President Cokie Giles, RN, welcomed Maine Med nurses into the union. “So many Maine nurses have trained and worked at Maine Med over the years, including myself,” said Giles. “These new union members are a true beacon of hope to nurses across our state who want to have the strong, united voice that they can have through being a part of our union.”
Nurses began bargaining this contract in August of 2021.
Highlights of the three-year agreement include:
- Patient care protections, including the formation of a Professional Practice Committee comprising union RNs to review patient care conditions and make recommendations for improvement at the hospital, and a separate staffing committee with equal participation of union nurses and management to review hospital staffing levels, with approval by the committee for any changes in staffing patterns.
- Safe staffing: Ending the practice of mandatory rotating shifts, where nurses are forced to work day shift on some weeks and then night shifts other weeks.
- Providing minimum orientation times for newly graduated nurses.
- Guaranteed breaks and mealtimes
- Protections against unsafe floating. Floating is a management practice where nurses are reassigned to units of the hospital where they do not normally work. The contract includes language that establishes floating procedures and prevents nurses from being assigned to units for which they have not established expertise or competency.
- Diversity, equity, and inclusion: Nurses bargained for and won two seats for union nurses on Maine Med's standing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee. These bedside nurses will bring their critically important insights to the DEI committee while representing the interests of their patients, their coworkers, and their union.
- Economic gains to help retain and recruit experienced nurses: 15 percent across-the-board wage increases over three years, beginning with 7 percent in the first year of the agreement.
The Maine State Nurses Association represents 2,000 nurses at Maine Medical Center.
MSNA, the union for nurses in Maine, is affiliated with the National Nurses Organizing Committee and National Nurses United, the largest and fastest-growing labor union of registered nurses in the United States with more than 175,000 members nationwide.