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MaineHealth medical interpreters vote unanimously to form a union

MaineHealth interpreters holding signs in support of a union.
MaineHealth interpreters holding signs in support of a union. The 29-0 vote in favor of forming a union was announced on Thursday.

Medical interpreters at MaineHealth today voted unanimously to form a union, joining the Maine Service Employees Association.

The interpreters announced their union drive in April, saying they were coming together for "respect, equality, a fair wage, and a real voice."

Constant Kabuyenge interprets Swahili, French, Kirundi, and Kinyarwanda at Maine Medical Center in Portland, and was one of the 29 "yes" votes.

He said he supports the union as a way to better advocate for interpreters' interests.

"We basically wanted to sit [at] the table where the interpreters' issues are being discussed, in terms of wages, in terms of the conditions of the work, and also wanted to have a voice in our workplace," he said.

Kabuyenge also cited cost of living increases and concerns about being replaced by over the phone interpreter services.

MaineHealth said if the National Labor Relations Board certifies the results, the health system will "begin bargaining in good faith."

MaineHealth is the largest healthcare network in the state. The vote comes two years after nurses at Maine Medical Center, which is under the MaineHealth umbrella, voted to form their own union.