Employees of a sexual assault support center in Portland have launched a union campaign and received voluntary union recognition from the group’s leadership.

The nine staff members at Sexual Assault Response Services of Southern Maine voted unanimously to organize, while calling for the nonprofit’s board of directors to restore a recently terminated program, Hope and Healing. The workers also want the board to reinstate the program’s director, Devon Mulligan, and remove Erin Flood, the executive director of SARSSM.

“We feel it is very important to form this union so that we as a staff have an active voice in not only in the leadership of our organization, but also in forming the incredible services that we provide to the community,” said Andrew Shepard, the SARSSM director of education and community engagement.

The employees join those of several other Maine nonprofits who have launched union efforts in the last year. Unlike workers who have sought to address pay or working conditions, SARSSM organizers are focused on Flood’s leadership and recent decisions.

“The unilateral decision to dismantle the Hope and Healing program without cause, without a transition plan and without notifying staff or the community ahead of time really brought all staff together to address that this relationship with our executive director is no longer tenable,” Shepard said.

Flood notified staff on May 19 that Sexual Assault Response Services was discontinuing Hope and Healing, a program that created groups and events for survivor groups including people of color, queer people and men.


By May 22, the nine employees issued a vote of no confidence in Flood’s leadership and announced their intent to organize. On May 30, the board of directors voluntarily recognized the union. SARSSM will be represented by Maine Service Employees Association-SEIU.

“The board of directors has unanimously voted to voluntarily recognize MSEA-SEIU as the union representing SARSSM staff. We look forward to meeting and working together at the bargaining table on our first contract,” Flood said in a written statement.

Shepard said that the board has not addressed other concerns at this time.

The union said it also plans to seek long-term solutions for better working conditions and a stronger voice in decision-making.

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