June 22, 2023
MaineHealth Interpreters Vote Unanimously to Form Union
MaineHealth Interpreters Vote Unanimously to Form Union, the Second Successful Effort at Health-Care Network in 2 Years
Medical interpreters unite for respect, equality, and a voice at work, will join Maine Service Employees Association (MSEA-SEIU Local 1989)
PORTLAND, ME—On June 22nd, Medical Interpreters at MaineHealth, the largest health-care network in the state, voted unanimously to form a union and join the Maine Service Employees Association (MSEA-SEIU Local 1989). The interpreters voted 29 to 0 in a mail ballot election counted by the National Labor Relations Board. The workers will become the second group of MaineHealth employees to unionize in recent years, joining Maine Medical Center Nurses, who formed a union with the Maine State Nurses Association (MSNA) in 2021.
Interpreters announced their intention to organize together and filed for a union election on April 24th. In their announcement, the group wrote “We are coming together as MaineHealth interpreters for respect, equality, a fair wage, and a real voice. As interpreters facilitating communication between our patients and providers, we are also advocates, health system navigators, and cultural brokers. By forming our union today, we will make sure that our jobs are sustainable for ourselves and for interpreters who follow in our footsteps.”
Rye Ma, a Mandarin, French, and Spanish interpreter at MaineHealth, said that she voted yes “for my colleagues, myself, and future generations of interpreters.”
Indeed, workers are determined to use their union organization to fight for improvements that will make their jobs more sustainable. “We are all facing a cost-of-living crisis,” said Silvia Senosk, French and Spanish interpreter at MaineHealth. “Renting an apartment in Portland is practically impossible or comes with lots of limitations and sacrifices. As a union, we will work to win higher wages that allow us to live in the city we work in.”
Maintaining a strong core of in-person interpretation service-providers is also critical for patient comfort and safety, according to Sandra Ricker, a Spanish interpreter at MaineHealth. Said Ricker, “we are standing together for ourselves and for the patients we serve. When we have a voice, then they have a voice.”
In the coming weeks, United Maine Health Interpreters will be celebrating the election victory and preparing for the collective bargaining process together.
Interpreters’ successful vote to form their union follows the high-profile union election by Maine Medical Center registered nurses in 2021, in which nurses won a union by a strong margin. They also join a growing trend of union organizing among non-profit and social service workers, including workers Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, Preble Street, and sexual assault response workers in Southern and Midcoast Maine (SARSSM and SASSMM).