FORT KENT, Maine — About 20 nurses and community members showed up at Northern Maine Medical Center on Wednesday afternoon to protest the firing of Tiffani Daigle, a nurse who they say was unjustly terminated after becoming a vocal advocate for the nurses union.
The nurses union called her firing unjust. After Daigle’s termination, nurses at the Fort Kent hospital began circulating a petition demanding that the hospital reinstate Daigle. The petition claims that the termination was done without cause.
“We demand that Tiffani Daigle be reinstated immediately and made whole for any losses she has suffered because of NMMC’s cruel, hurtful and wholly meritless termination of our friend and colleague,” the document read.
The petition received 637 signatures. The group had the petition enlarged on three large pieces of cardboard, complete with all of the signatures.
The group attempted to enter the hospital with the petition and speak with management, however they were stopped at the door and not allowed to go into the building.
“Today, management refused to speak to us about our petition that we brought,” Ashley Plourde, a registered nurse in the emergency department, said in a statement to local media after the group was denied entry. “All we want is Tiffani to be back with us in the emergency room.”
The group then marched down Main Street, to an area adjacent to the local Walgreens. Dozens of passing motorists honked to show support for Daigle.
Registered nurses at the hospital by a 62 percent majority voted on Jan. 17 to unionize and join the Maine State Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee. The hospital issued a statement shortly afterward, acknowledging the nurses’ decision to unionize.
Eight days later, on Jan. 25, the hospital fired Daigle.
Daigle was a contracted employee, and the hospital says her termination is a result of that contract ending.
“MIss Daigle entered into a contract for services at Northern Maine Medical Center, and her contract ended,” Kris Malmborg, hospital marketing and communications director, said.
Malmborg did not disclose the terms of the contract and declined to offer any further details regarding Daigle’s termination.
“There is nothing more to be added,” he said.
Daigle said she was given written assurance by management that her contract would be renewed. She carried an enlarged photo of the text exchange during the protest. Daigle has been a nurse at the hospital for five years, and has been working as a per diem nurse in the ER for the past two years, a decision she made after having her third baby.
She said the hospital asked her in August if she would consider taking a 13-week internal contract in August. It was at this time that she asked, and received confirmation, that she would remain a per diem employee at the end of the contract.
“Why in the world would I sign a contract which would leave me with no job at the end of it?” Daigle said.
The contract was renewed in late November for an additional eight weeks. On Dec. 7, nurses officially filed their petition to unionize with the National Labor Relations Board.
And on Jan. 25, one day before the end of the contract, she said she received a text message stating that she was no longer a per diem employee, and that she was removed from the schedule.
“I wasn’t told anything aside from that text message stating that I was no longer a per diem employee,” she said. “That’s it. No one’s reached out to me. I wasn’t told anything else.”
The signatures on the petition, which mostly came from St. John Valley residents, were gathered in just under a week.
“This has been the most humbling experience,” Daigle said. “I’m so grateful for all the people that stand behind me.”
In addition to unionized nurses, the group included community members, such as Frenchville resident Gary Michaud, an employee of Twin Rivers Paper Company who is also a member of United Steelworkers union. He said he came out to support Daigle, and that he believed she was unjustly fired.
“They’ve forgotten whose hospital this is,” Michaud said. “This is the community’s hospital.”