BANGOR, Maine — Cokie Giles, RN, president of the Maine State Nurses Association (MSNA) and a working nurse at the endoscopy clinic at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, has been elected as one of the four presidents of National Nurses Organizing Committee, one of the largest and fastest growing direct-care RN unions in the United States.
Maine has been affiliated with the NNOC since 2006.
NNOC represents unionized nurses in California, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, Texas, and West Virginia as well as Maine. Giles is also a vice president of National Nurses United, the largest U.S. organization of R.N.s with 185,000 members, of which NNOC is a founding member.
“Cokie Giles is a spirited fighter for patients and nurses with a broad vision of social and economic justice, expanding health coverage to all Americans, and eradicating the disparities in our nation that continue to put so many families at risk,” said NNOC Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro, in a press release.
“Her extensive experience speaking out for nurses at the bedside, in the community, and in the legislative arena make her an excellent national leader for nurses,” “We are proud to have Cokie as a co-president of NNOC,” DeMoro said.
Giles cites her family background as influential in developing her support for unions and collective action. Her father, a truck driver, was a lifelong member of the Teamsters union.
As a Maine nurse leader, Giles played a key role in helping the MSNA disaffiliate from the American Nurses Association in 2001, bringing them into the growing national nurses’ movement led by the California Nurses Association and NNOC, and, ultimately, NNU which was founded in 2009.
Since that time, she has been instrumental in building the power of Maine nurses, helping them take stronger bargaining positions, negotiate better contracts, and push for safe staffing ratios in the Legislature.
As an RN, Giles believes to her core that all patients equally deserve the best standard of healthcare possible, regardless of ability to pay. “For this whole country, the disparity and the difference in care that exists, it should not be,” said Giles. “There should be a standard of care that everyone is treated adequately and safely.”
Giles bases her beliefs not only on her observations of patients, but on her own family. Her 30-year-old son, Matthew, has been diabetic since childhood and, though he has always worked, has often suffered from lack of medical care simply because he could not afford it and his employer did not provide it. “He has had three hospitalizations that would not have happened if he had [Medicare],” said Giles. “That’s why I’m so passionate about single payer and Medicare for all.”
Giles graduated with her BSN from the University of Southern Maine. The caring drive apparently runs in her family. Giles’ daughter, Jessie Mellott, is also an RN at Eastern Maine Medical Center.