From an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama all the way to Maine Medical Center here in Portland, frontline workers across the United States this year have fought – and are still fighting – to be heard as they demand better working conditions, battle for their right to bargain collectively, and push back against a system that too often puts corporate profits over the dignity and health of working-class people.

Nationwide over the last 13 months of this horrific and deadly pandemic there has been much public fawning for “our brave frontline heroes.” But it has been quite revealing to see who actually stands with these same workers when they join together to stand up for themselves and, in the case of nurses, their patients as well.

The MMC nurses behind the union drive have made clear that working conditions under the executive leadership of Maine Health are not sufficient. They say schedules and shift coverage are not ok when it comes to maintaining levels of care and safety. They argue they do not have a seat at the table and that their voices are not heard.

Hospital executives Jeff Sanders and Devin Carr recently argued on these pages that the National Nurses Union (NNU), which the MMC nurses are trying to join through the state-level Maine State Nurses Association (MSNA), is trying “to tear us down to build themselves up.”

But what seems deeply disingenuous about that characterization is how these high-level executives use the word “us,” when it’s clear the nurses trying to assert their dignity and voice as essential members of the hospital are excluded from that equation.

What does it say about such executives when they praise nurses as vital heroes in one breath, then in the next suggest they are too naive to know their own realities?


But the nurses are being heard. Many former patients and their families from across the region have stood in solidarity with the union drive. Instead of lecturing these nurses, they are joining with them.

Online, Friends of Maine Med Nurses have provided a steady stream of moral support for the nurses now facing off against an out-of-state union busting team hired by Maine Health.

But still, it’s not easy for these nurses and—with labor laws stacked against them in favor of powerful corporations like Amazon and Maine Health – nothing is certain.

Last month in Alabama, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) told those organizing against Amazon—one of the nation’s most powerful corporations—that they were doing something historic.

“If history teaches us anything, it is that big money interests do not just give you anything,” Sanders said. “You’ve got to stand up and you’ve got to fight for it.

“All over this country, people are sick and tired of being exploited,” he continued, and told the workers their “message to people all over this country is stand up and fight back.”


“You’re gonna do it here. We can do it all over this country,” Sanders exclaimed. “We can grow the middle class. We can make sure all of our working people can live with the respect and dignity they deserve.”

On Friday, union election results showed that pro-union workers came up short in Alabama and that Amazon’s management – armed with endless financial resources and leveraging a rigged system designed to undermine working-class interests – overwhelmed the organizing effort.

But that is not the end of the story. And whether or not the nurses at Maine Medical Center win their ongoing fight is not the end of the story.

The end of the story is this: Workers deserve a voice. Nurses deserve the support of the communities they serve. And we all deserve better than the status quo health care system that too often puts money before people.

We are here for you, because you have always been there for us.

Let that be our message to our brave nurses – each and every one of them – as they consider this crucial vote before them this month. We are so proud of them. We owe them so much.

We can’t cast a ballot, but we can cast our love, admiration, and solidarity.

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