The afternoon sun shines on Maine Medical Center in Portland on Wednesday Feb. 10, 2021. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

The nurses at Maine Medical Center in Portland have voted to form a union.

They voted 1,001-750 in support of certifying the union during a mail-in election conducted over the last month, according to election results announced Thursday night.

That means they’re now on track to form a collective bargaining agreement with the Maine State Nurses Association. That would potentially give the nurses more of a say in how their facility is run and in the wages and benefits they receive.

However, it’s still possible that Maine Med’s leaders — who opposed the union campaign — could file an objection to the outcome of the election.

The ballots for the union campaign were tallied Thursday evening at a New England office of the National Labor Relations Board. The count, which took about four hours, was broadcast over Zoom.

The effort to form a nurses union at Maine’s largest hospital began more than a year ago, in the fall of 2019, but it gained urgency during the coronavirus pandemic as nurses grew frustrated with staffing levels, access to personal protective equipment and more.

While praising the care offered by the 637-bed hospital, they’ve said that a union would give them more say in the top-level decisions affecting them and their patients.

The hospital has publicly opposed the union effort. Its leaders have argued that they’ve supported staff throughout the pandemic with solid wages, benefits and supplies of protective equipment, and that the facility doesn’t need the involvement of “a third party that does not share our Values.”

Nurses first petitioned to form the union in January.

But some other nurses have publicly come out against the union, saying that they’re happy with their current pay and benefits and worry a collective bargaining unit would make it harder to approach their supervisors.

The campaign took a divisive turn when Maine Med’s leaders hired a national consulting firm to provide mandatory training to nurses ahead of the election. That firm markets its experience fighting union organizing efforts, and the hospital was criticized after it gave a small number of coronavirus vaccines to the consultants who had come from out-of-state.

Supporters of the union drive and the Portland hospital did not immediately make any public statements about the outcome of the vote.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.