So, What Happened In Maine?

A shady anti-union consultant meeting, mis-given vaccines, and nurses agonizing over unionizing

The Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act of 2019: What It Is and What It Means for Nurses

It almost sounds like the makings of a movie…and not one that gives you the warm and fuzzies. 

Back in mid-January of this year, one of Maine’s biggest health systems, MaineHealth, made what you might call a bad decision. You see, MaineHealth was dealing with a current local effort by nurses to unionize. And as hospital systems often do in situations such as these, they brought in an anti-union consulting company; in this case, Reliant Labor Consultants. 

But, here’s where things get even muddier. MaineHealth representatives then chose to offer COVID-19 vaccinations to this group of people, thus violating the current guidelines in the state dictating vaccine rollouts.

A spokesperson from MaineHealth stated, “We understand that non-Maine residents are not eligible for any vaccine and acknowledge that we erred in vaccinating those individuals.” They explained further that they were trying to protect medical staff and other hospital representatives by vaccinating Reliant Labor Consultants members.

Here’s the thing, while it’s not unheard of (and probably standard protocol) for hospitals to bring in companies like Reliant Labor Consultants to help discourage the unionization of hospital workers, the fact of the matter is that the vaccine supply is still severely limited. These anti-union consultants are not essential frontline workers and they don’t provide an essential service like those needed during a pandemic. 

The general consensus is, this shouldn’t have happened. President of the Maine State Nurses Association, Cokie Giles, told The Huffington Post, “They’re not front-line people. They should not have been the priority to get those vaccinations. I have friends of mine in their 70s who get up at 6 o’clock every morning to go online and try to get their [vaccination] appointments.”

And Giles isn’t the only one speaking up about the poor vaccine call. Maine’s Governor, Janet Mills (D) stated that the vaccine administering by MaineHealth was inexcusable and released a statement saying, “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.”

The Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act of 2019: What It Is and What It Means for Nurses

To top all of this off, Maine nurses are still agonizingly split over whether to unionize or not. As it stands, ballots will be mailed to the state’s 1,900 eligible voting nurses by the end of March. Nurses are voicing differing opinions of unionization. But what much of it comes down to is whether they want someone to help represent them and speak for them, or if they are comfortable continuing to advocate for themselves with hospital management.

Submitted ballots are expected to be opened and counted virtually on April 29th.

What are your thoughts on this vaccination misstep? Are you a member, or non-member, of  nurses union? We want to hear your story. Join the conversation below!

Symphony Ragan

Symphony Ragan

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