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Republicans have put Merrick Garland in contempt of Congress; state legislatures are missing people from working-class jobs, and FDA has advice for formulating the next COVID vaccine for a new strain.

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House Republicans vote to hold AG Merrick Garland in contempt of Congress. The Senate battles it out over federal protections for in vitro fertilization. North Dakota becomes the first state to impose an age cutoff to run for Congress.

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Rural America's job growth is up, but still hasn't recovered from the pandemic, about one in five rural Americans lives in a town with a prison, rural women seeking birth control have a new option, and dark skies beckon as summer arrives.

Patients, Families Voice Support for Portland Nurses' Union Bid

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Thursday, March 18, 2021   

PORTLAND, Maine -- Roughly 1,500 patients and families of Maine Medical Center, the state's largest hospital, have signed a letter in support of nurses there in their bid to form a union.

After nurses petitioned the National Labor Relations Board to join the Maine State Nurses Association in January, the hospital hired an out-of-state law firm known for fighting union efforts, Reliant Labor Solutions.

The union vote is scheduled for the end of this month.

Todd Chretien, a high school teacher from Portland who wrote the letter on behalf of Friends of Maine Med Nurses, said it's wrong for the hospital to stand in the way of nurses making their own decision.

"Those signatures stand not just for the individuals who signed them, but for their loved ones who've been in the hospital, for their friends, for their co-workers and for family members," Chretien explained. "So we really think this represents thousands and thousands of people."

This union bid comes on the heels of 2020, when 13,000 Mainers joined labor unions. Nearly 17% of workers were represented by unions, up 3% from the previous year, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor.

Rep. Mike Sylvester, D-Portland, said current labor laws make it difficult to enforce against instances of intimidation or attempts to sow fear and doubt among workers who may be inclined to vote for the union.

He urged hospital leadership not to spend patient money on union-busting tactics.

"If they just had questions about the legalities of the law, they could have hired any Maine attorney to do that," Sylvester asserted. "But they went out, and they hired one of the most expensive firms whose sole duty is to make sure that the nurses do not vote in a union."

Members of other local Portland unions, from firefighters to electrical workers, also joined to show their support, with the knowledge of what a difference collective bargaining can make towards safer working conditions and better standards of living.


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