Worker Rights Board
Developed by an eight person committee of local leaders, the mission of the Eastern Maine Worker Rights Board is to provide a community forum to legitimize workers’ voices and to help remedy workplace injustices. The WRB is a project of Food AND Medicine.
Please see below for more background on the Worker Rights Board.
The WRB believes it can can play a positive role in gaining a just, fair and sustainable resolution to the issues that remain outstanding between the 900-plus nurses and the administration at EMMC.
Below are letters sent by the Worker Rights Board of Eastern Maine’s Steering Committee to all of the nurses at EMMC and to the Board and Corporators of Eastern Maine Medical Center.
Click Here to read the Op-Ed authored by Rev. Mark Doty and Rep. Adam Goode, members of the Steering Committee of the Worker Rights Board of Eastern Maine.
Click Here to view press coverage of the formation of the Worker Rights Board of Eastern Maine.
Introduction: Worker Rights Boards (WRBs) are an innovation of Jobs with Justice (JwJ). These initiatives typically bring a diverse body of influential community members together to support workers in gaining a voice and respect at work. WRBs use a variety of tactics, the most powerful being listening to workers in a formal “hearing.” In addition, WRBs may issue statements to the community or to employers, present reports or write letters directly to workers in an organizing campaign.
Needs that a WRB fulfills: Workers in Eastern Maine experience enormous obstacles in organizing their workplaces, whether they are forming a union or other structure. The legal penalties through the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on employers who obstruct organizing are miniscule, while the need for organizing is readily apparent. According to surveys of over 600 area workers by the Worker Center of Eastern Maine (WCEM), nearly half of all those surveyed would like to have a union at work. (These numbers mirror similar surveys done at a national scale.) There are a host of reasons why workers need to organize—unsafe working conditions; lack of living wages or essential benefits such as affordable healthcare; lack of a voice or ability to have input at work; “at-will” laws that subject workers to arbitrary acts of discipline by management.
Role of the WRB: The Eastern Maine WRB will have two fundamental roles: listening to workers and promoting worker justice. Often Workers are ignored in our society, which provides those in power with more opportunities to dictate their will. The WRB will counteract this structural injustice by offering space,attention, and support to workers telling their stories.
The WRB will explore methods that empower workers to speak and act for their own benefit, through such established sustainable models as unions, and other emerging strategies for worker justice such as Worker Centers.
The WRB will promote structural changes that benefit workers such as union recognition by employers,stronger labor laws, and living wage policies. By amplifying workers’ stories, the WRB also will support a sense of solidarity among workers and community members, and raise expectations for the deal workers get for their labor. This will, in turn, increase pressure on governments and employers to be accountable to those who labor.
In order to make sure our efforts are effective, the WRB will focus on supporting worker campaigns that are led by workers, supported by worker organizations such as unions, and/or are part of a viable strategy,to build worker organizations lasting after the immediate worker rights violation is remedied. Furthermore,the WRB will be favorably disposed to campaigns that are part of a long-term strategic plan for worker power and organizations that are democratically run. The Worker Rights Board will not initiate organizing campaigns.
Building a strong organization: The WRB steering committee will take the steps needed to build an effective, transparent and sustainable organization. In order to accomplish this goal, the WRB will have the following: clear, transparent structure; defined relationships with key allies; adequate resources; a sufficient number of WRB members; and effective self-evaluation.