Press Release

Nurses at Maine Med win back paid leave

Group of nurses outside hospital wearing MSNA hats

Largest hospital in the state gives in to pressure from nurses and their allies

After a two-month campaign, the unionized nurses at Maine Medical Center (Maine Med) have won back the paid leave benefits that the hospital abruptly ended last December, announced the Maine State Nurses Association (MSNA) today.

“We are absolutely thrilled to have back our paid leave that we were always entitled to keeping, but that the hospital chose to take away from us,” said Mary Kate O’Sullivan, RN. “We finally won it back without making any concessions. This is a clear testament to the power of the nurses when we act collectively.”

The nurses’ campaign began with a rally just before Christmas in which about 50 nurses, with the help of Santa Claus, delivered lumps of coal to Maine Med President Jeff Sander’s office. The following month, nurses and other Maine Med employees throughout the hospital wore stickers at work. These stickers called on Maine Med to restore the negotiated and agreed upon benefits for the unionized nurses. A roving delegation of nurses spent a day confronting administrators in their offices, forcing them to discuss with them the real-life impact this loss of paid leave benefits was having on nurses who were new parents, those who were grieving the loss of loved ones, or those who were serving their community through jury duty or military service.

Nurses also solicited nearly 500 postcards from community members, which were then sent to President Jeff Sander’s home, demanding that the paid leave benefits be restored. Nurses hung posters in hundreds of businesses around Portland inviting community members to email MMC President Jeff Sanders and echo their demands. On Feb. 12, the nurses published an opinion piece in the Sunday Maine Telegram. Five days later, on Feb. 17, Maine Med executives agreed to restore the nurses’ benefits

“Getting the community involved was important to keep public pressure on management,” said O’Sullivan.

In addition to restoring the nurses’ paid leave benefits, Maine Med also agreed to new provisions in the nurses’ union contract, including time-and-a-half pay for salaried nurses who pick up extra shifts, and a new hospital-wide system of “senior perks” that will give additional time off to the most senior nurses.

“We’re not going to forget the things that management does to us, but I think now they realize when they take things away from us, we’re not going to stop fighting until we get them back,” said O’Sullivan.

MSNA President Cokie Giles praised the Maine Med Nurses’ win, “We are so proud of our newest members at Maine Medical center and congratulate them on this tremendous victory. When we fight, we win!”

“We sent a really clear message to Maine Med,” said O’Sullivan. “The same way we will always fight for our patients, we’re going to fight for each other. I think they know they can’t mess with us the same way anymore.”

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 nearly 225,000 members nationwide.