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Maine hospital gave scarce COVID-19 vaccinations to out-of-state consultants there to bust a union

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Union-busters who traveled from other states to fight a union organizing drive at a Maine hospital got an extra-special bonus from hospital management: COVID-19 vaccinations. State officials are calling out MaineHealth over that violation of state vaccination policy and basic decency.

“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 80-year-old grandmother who hasn’t seen her family in months; the man being treated for cancer; the teacher wanting to return to the classroom; the grocery clerks and delivery drivers who are exposed to the public and working to put food on the table,” Maine Gov. Janet Mills said in a statement. Mills also criticized MaineHealth more broadly for vaccinating staff who don’t have contact with patients, noting that “we have a limited supply of the vaccine, and we have had to prioritize who can be vaccinated.”

”Every out-of-state consultant and lawyer that MaineHealth flew in as part of their intimidation campaign got the vaccine instead of someone’s grandparent or loved one,” Maine Senate President Troy Jackson said. “It’s concerning that MaineHealth would put their own anti-union agenda, and their own bottom line, ahead of the health and well-being of Maine people. At a time when Maine has only a limited supply of the COVID-19 vaccine and is still grappling with a public health crisis, this seems particularly cruel.”

”They’re not front-line people. They should not have been the priority to get those vaccinations,” Maine State Nurses Association President Cokie Giles told HuffPost’s Dave Jamieson. “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.” 

With the attention on its actions—thanks originally to Portland Press Herald columnist Bill Nemitz—MaineHealth has gone from defending the move, saying “MaineHealth stands by its decision in December to offer vaccination against COVID-19 to its full care team as being in the best interests of its patients, care team members and the communities it serves,” to “We understand that non-Maine residents are not eligible for any vaccine and acknowledge that we erred in vaccinating those individuals.”

But the hospital system showed its priorities first by hiring anti-union consultants and then by drawing attention to that by vaccinating them over actual Maine residents who should have gotten those doses. With the union representation election coming up in March, nurses have been organizing around issues like staffing and protective equipment. Now they have another big question to ask their employer: “Hospitals talk to nurses about how expensive it would be to have a union, and how their costs would go up,” said Giles. “I would like to know how much they’re spending on these consultants.”

This blog originally appeared at Daily Kos on February 10, 2021. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Laura Clawson has been a contributing editor since December 2006. Clawson has been full-time staff since 2011, and is currently assistant managing editor at the Daily Kos.

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