Workers and community supporters highlight contract proposals that could harm workers, hospital and the community
Albert Lea, MN – Monday evening, outside of the Mayo Clinic Health System Albert Lea Hospital, dozens of maintenance workers and community supporters held an informational picket to highlight stalled contract negotiations because of proposals made by Mayo that could set back workers, the hospital and the community. The workers, who are members of the SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, highlighted their concerns on the public sidewalk outside of the hospital as they continue their attempts to reach a fair contract agreement. The picket followed an initial informational picket in November of 2015, and saw strong support from hospital workers who are members of other unions, including Minnesota Nurses Association, AFSCME Council 65, Albert Lea Education Association, Southeast Area Labor Center and the Minnesota AFL-CIO.
Workers at the picket included Henry Tews, a maintenance engineer who has worked at the hospital for 26 years, who highlighted what changes proposed by the hospital would mean for both workers and the community.
“Like our last picket, we are here today to show that we are willing to fight for what is right for Albert Lea. Having a safe, well-run hospital is important to patients, and having decent jobs in our community is important to everyone in and around Albert Lea. That is why other hospital employees are out here and have been wearing stickers in support of our fight, because we know that our fight is just the first if we don’t stop them from taking us backwards,” said Tews. “We are ready to sit down at the bargaining table and reach an agreement with the hospital so we can continue to provide the service needed to make our hospital great. Unfortunately, Mayo executives won’t budge on their offer.”
The maintenance workers at Mayo Clinic Health System Albert Lea Hospital are the first unit of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota members to bargain this round with Mayo, and they have held over 10 negotiation sessions over the last seven months. Many points of agreement have been reached, but workers continued to expressed frustration over proposed language that takes away the voice of longtime workers.
Another maintenance worker at the picket was Gary Wichmann, who has worked at the Albert Lea Hospital for 10 years.
“We were excited to see such a great crowd today and be joined by Union brothers and sisters from AFSCME, the Minnesota Nurses Association and others. Today showed that the workers who make the hospital run are standing together for a stronger Albert Lea and Mayo system. It is huge that we are all out here together to show our unity,” said Wichmann. “We’re ready to get a fair contract settled, and we hope Mayo will come to the negotiating table to get that done. This is too important to back down, and we are prepared to continue this fight as long as is needed for what is right.”
Negotiations began in August of 2015. There are currently no new negotiation sessions planned.
SEIU Healthcare Minnesota represents over 35,000 healthcare and long term care workers in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and home care across Minnesota.