Press Releases

Mayo Clinic Health System-Albert Lea Hospital Workers Hold Second Informational Picket Outside of Hospital As Contract Negotiations Continue to Stall

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.

AlbertLea_Info_Picket_rsWorkers 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.

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SEIU Healthcare Minnesota represents over 35,000 healthcare and long term care workers in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and home care across Minnesota.

www.seiuhcmn.org

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Minnesota Nursing Home Workers Join National “Fight for $15” to Raise Wages and Improve Quality of Care

Dozens rally just days after new report highlights how low pay and poor working conditions are exacerbating “care gap” for Baby Boomer population

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Roseville, Minn – Just hours after fast food workers went on strike across the Twin Cities, on the heels of New York and California both passing a $15 minimum wage, Minnesota nursing home workers with SEIU Healthcare Minnesota who are currently bargaining contracts with Golden Living Center (GLC) rallied at the GLC Lakeridge site in Roseville for higher wages and quality care for seniors and people with disabilities. Last week alone, nearly 5,000 Pennsylvania nursing home workers won a path to a $15 hourly wage through their union. Working people in Minnesota are coming together to win a similar victory.

Speaking at the event was longtime GLC Lakeridge employee Tim Sorenson, a CNA and steward with SEIU Healthcare MN, who highlighted how seniors and people with disabilities pay the price when the workers are paid low wages that aren’t enough to support their family.

“We care for your grandfathers, grandmothers, parents, sons, daughters and friends, yet we are paid so little that many people working in nursing homes have to rely on public assistance to survive,” said Sorenson. “The instability caused by poverty wages and low staffing levels means higher turnover and more people getting hurt on the job. We want better care for the people we serve, and that means wages that both bring in and keep good people on the job. That is why we are having this rally today and why we are joining the Fight for $15 as part of our current contract negotiations!”

As the national movement of fast food, child care, home care and airport workers grows, nursing home workers, among the most underpaid working women and men in the country,  are joining to stand up to the corporate greed that is keeping wages low and failing our communities. SEIU nursing home members are taking action today in more than 40 cities in 16 states, calling for fair wages and quality care for seniors and people with disabilities who depend upon nursing home care.  There are strikes in a number of states, including in Florida where 2,000 nursing home workers will go on a 24-hour strike at 19 Consulate Healthcare facilities, the largest healthcare strike in the Southeast in more than a decade.

The events come just days after a new report highlighted the crisis facing care work. Key findings from the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute (PHI) report, Raise the Floor: Quality Nursing Home Care Depends on Quality Jobs, released Tuesday include:

  • In Minnesota, CNAs earn a median hourly wage of $12.22, taking home so little that as many as 33% rely on public assistance, such as food stamps or Medicaid.
  • As a result of low pay, insufficient staffing levels, high injury rates, and limited on-the-job support, nursing home employers can neither recruit nor retain qualified nursing assistants.
  • The average turnover rates for nursing assistants exceeded 50 percent in 2012 and are expected to climb as there are more opportunities for higher-paying jobs with better working conditions.
  • The cumulative growth in the number of women and men over the age of 85 will exceed that of the working-age population by more than 10 times over the next 45 years, creating a “care gap” crisis.
  • Nationally:
    • 91 percent of nursing assistants are women; 53 percent are people of color.
    • Nursing assistants earn median hourly wage of $11.51 and annual earnings of $19,000. Real wages for CNAs have decreased by 7 percent in the last decade.
    • 1 in 3 CNAs relies on taxpayer-funded public benefits such as food stamps or Medicaid.

According to PHI, nursing assistants and workers providing laundry, food and housekeeping services are undervalued and underpaid, often viewed “as a cost to be managed rather than an asset to invest.” Keeping the wage floor low leads to half of nursing home workers leaving their positions each year and adds to the gap in available trained long term care providers.

Today, more than 1.3 million older Americans and people with disabilities reside in nursing homes and the rapidly aging population will create an explosive demand for long term care services. Ten thousand women and men turn 65 every day, and the numbe r of older Americans in greatest need of 24-hour care in a nursing home setting—women and men over the age of 85—is poised to nearly triple by 2050.

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SEIU Healthcare Minnesota represents over 35,000 healthcare and long term care workers in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and home care across Minnesota.

www.seiuhcmn.org

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Minnesota Home Care Worker Responds to Governor Dayton’s Supplemental Budget As Severe Care Crisis Continues

HCW_Capitol_Rally_rsSt. Paul, Minn – Governor Dayton released his supplemental budget today, which included funding to bring the state into compliance with new federal overtime rules in regards to home care workers. Currently, many seniors and people with disabilities who receive home care services are facing issues getting the care they need because home care workers are having their hours capped at 40 hours per week. With a severe shortage of home care workers in the state, this has resulted in challenges for those needing care. The overtime rule was changed by President Obama in 2015 to fix the injustice of care workers, predominantly women and people of color, having been deliberately excluded from the basic legal protections around minimum wage and overtime created in the 1930s.

Home care clients and workers have worked together to make certain the
state fixes this issue so that all home care clients have the care that they need. In response to Gov. Dayton allocating money to address this problem in his supplemental budget, home care worker Marie Bounds from Brooklyn Park released the following statement:

“We are very glad to see that Governor Dayton has recognized that this issue is important to thousands of families with seniors and people with disabilities across Minnesota, by adding funding for overtime pay in his supplemental budget,” said Bounds. “Recently I was told I can’t work more than 40 hours per week between my two clients, so I had to choose which client I was going to help, and which client I would have to cut back on care for. They both have extensive care needs and I’ve been their PCA for nearly 4 years. One client really needed the extra 7 hours, but I had to cut back being his PCA. It is a challenge for him to find someone who is reliable for just those few hours, because of the shortage of home care workers. Fixing this issue will help families all over Minnesota and is a step towards making our state a better place for all of us. We look forward to fighting to get this funding for the overtime pay we need and to which we’re now entitled under federal law, along with protections so that workers like me can’t have our hours capped at 40 hours per week anymore, so that no senior or person with disabilities struggles to get the care they deserve.”

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SEIU Healthcare Minnesota represents over 35,000 healthcare and long term care workers in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and home care across Minnesota.

www.seiuhcmn.org

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Minnesota must raise smoking age to 21 to save lives, protect kids

Saint Paul, Minn — Today, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in Minnesota is calling on Governor Dayton and state legislators to follow California’s lead and pass vital legislation that will protect kids and save thousands of lives by raising the minimum age to buy tobacco.

“California legislators overcame heavy-handed lobbying and threats from the tobacco industry, passing Tobacco 21 legislation because they recognized their duty to protect families in their state.  Don’t the children of Minnesota deserve the same chance to grow up addiction-free?” said Jamie Gulley, President of the SEIU Minnesota State Council. 

Last week, the California State Assembly passed SB 7 X2 by State Senator Ed Hernandez that will raise the age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21. Governor Jerry Brown is expected to sign the legislation when it reaches his desk. California will now join Hawaii as the second state to make this important change.

Ninety-five percent (95%) of adult tobacco users started before they were 21 years old. Of those kids who become regular smokers, 1 in 3 will die from tobacco-related diseases.

Even tobacco industry researchers acknowledge that addiction-prone adolescents are significantly more likely than their older counterparts to become lifelong smokers, the reason Big Tobacco vehemently fought the Tobacco 21 legislation in California.

“Saving lives by keeping tobacco out of teens’ hands is a legacy that Minnesota leaders can embrace by fighting the number one cause of preventable death in our state.”

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SEIU is the workers who provide care and support for your family in your homes, hospitals, public schools, nursing homes, hotels, universities and the Twin Cities’ largest public and private buildings, and who make and distribute products used by Minnesotans every day. The SEIU Minnesota State Council coordinates the electoral, legislative and outreach work of the SEIU Locals in Minnesota to increase the effectiveness of their collective bargaining and new member organizing campaigns. By building the political involvement of the approximately 53,000 people SEIU represents throughout the state, the State Council is working to improve the lives of all Minnesotans. The State Council’s board is comprised of elected leaders, members, and staff of the four SEIU Local Unions in Minnesota and Workers United.

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SEIU Members Ready to Fight for Policies to Make Minnesota a More Equitable State


Budget surplus provides opportunity to invest in plans that can help roll back Minnesota’s inequalities during upcoming session

St. Paul, MN – As lawmakers head back to the Capitol for the first day of the 2016 session, members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in Minnesota are ready to fight for legislation that prioritizes working families and uses the surplus created by a strong economy and sound polices to invest in closing our state’s inequalities.

SEIU Members believe that the state’s $900 million surplus provides a golden opportunity for elected officials to make real investments in our educational system.

IMG_0975_rs“After years of underinvestment, we’ve seen some movement in the previous years in education funding, but we still have a long way to go to get to proper funding from cradle to career,” said Anna Angeles- Farris, a parent, Custodian in the Lakeville schools and member of SEIU Local 284. “I have seen firsthand the need for real education funding through various areas of my life, from my children and grandchildren seeing the need for Pre-K, to my work in K-12 schools making clear to me the need for real investment so all students can succeed, to my family’s reality of the skyrocketing price of college. I know that we need to invest in education from top to bottom to ensure that all Minnesotans have a real shot at success, and will be fighting at the Capitol this session to make sure our surplus is spent on investing in education, not tax cuts.”

Seniors and people with disabilities who receive home care services in Minnesota are currently facing challenges as new Federal overtime laws are causing the hours of their home care workers to be capped. This is happening because the State of Minnesota hasn’t allocated proper funding to cover for the new law. This is harming the care clients are able to receive, which is why home care workers like Jill Rogers from Two Harbors are speaking out to fix this crucial problem this session.
“Clients don’t stop needing care at 40 hours. I don’t stop providing the care my son needs when my paid time runs out. It doesn’t work that way,” said Rogers, a member of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota. “If this goes on for too long home care workers are going to quit and clients are going to go into institutions. But we can solve this problem. There is a budget surplus at the Capitol and our elected officials should ensure clients across the state get the care they deserve.”

SEIU Members are also strong advocates for the polices in the Working Parents Act, including Earned Sick and Safe Time, Paid Family Leave, Retirement Security, Putting a Stop to Wage Theft and Fair Scheduling which would help working families in our state and are important tools to help begin to roll back our state’s racial and economic disparities. Members are also excited to advocate for the recommendations approved by the Governor’s Health Care Finance Task Force, including expanding MinnesotaCare, extending the provider tax and ensuring undocumented families have the ability to receive affordable health care coverage.
SEIU members will be at the Capitol this session advocating for policies that support working families, and will host their Lobby Day on April 12th.

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SEIU is the workers who provide care and support for your family in your homes, hospitals, public schools, nursing homes, hotels, universities and the Twin Cities’ largest public and private buildings, and who make and distribute products used by Minnesotans every day. The SEIU Minnesota State Council coordinates the electoral, legislative and outreach work of the SEIU Locals in Minnesota to increase the effectiveness of their collective bargaining and new member organizing campaigns. By building the political involvement of the approximately 53,000 people SEIU represents throughout the state, the State Council is working to improve the lives of all Minnesotans. The State Council’s board is comprised of elected leaders, members, and staff of the four SEIU Local Unions in Minnesota and Workers United.

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Twin Cities Janitors Win Tentative Agreement on New Contract

After months of fighting, contract wins $15 for thousands of janitors, the largest wage increases in decades, concrete steps to address workload crisis, healthcare improvements and more

Minneapolis, Minn – In their 18th negotiation session, after 12 hours of bargaining that started Sunday afternoon and ended after 1 a.m. Monday morning, janitors and their employers reached a tentative agreement on a new four-year contract. With the tentative agreement, which will be brought to the membership this weekend for approval, janitors won big gains following their 24-hour ULP strike, civil disobedience and countless rallies and marches with supporters. Full background on the contract campaign at bottom. 

Janitor_Contact_rsBrahim Kone, a janitor from St. Paul and leader on the bargaining team, highlighted why janitors were so excited with the agreement and why they are advocating for members to vote yes on the contract.

“This was a hard fight, but we were fighting for a better life for our families and a step forward on rolling back racial disparities in our state, and the bargaining team is so proud of the final result that we are bringing back to the full membership” said Kone, a father of three. “Alongside many other important wins, we won the largest raise in decades for Twin Cities janitors, moving full time workers like myself over $15 immediately, and for the first time we won steps forward on addressing our workload crisis. This is a big win for our union, and a big win for our community. Janitors stood together through many months to win what is right, and we are so excited for this victory.”

Lucia Guaman, a janitor who works for Harvard cleaning RBC Plaza in Minneapolis, highlighted why the groundbreaking wins on workload are so important to janitors with SEIU.

“Winning new policies about workload, including walkthroughs with union stewards and a plan to do a worker-centered third-party study about the real challenges facing janitors so we can end this workload crisis once and for all, are huge wins for janitors and our families,” said Guaman. “My supervisor once told me, when I brought up our increasing workload, to ‘vacuum with one hand, mop with the other and dust with your mouth.’ No one deserves this treatment, but people were intimidated to discuss workload or even report when they get injured. Now we have an avenue to fix this crisis, and we hope this means we no longer will hear stories about janitors too hurt and sore from work to play with their children. We have been fighting to live, not just survive, and this is a huge step towards that goal.”

Members of the union will vote on the full proposal this weekend.

Main contract wins include:

1.  Largest Janitorial Wage Increases in Over 20 years

  • Over 60% of all janitors will immediately get raises to over $15/hour
  • All full time janitors will receive raises of $.50, $.50, $.40, $.40
  • Full timers will reach $16.42 by the end of the 4 year contract, a 12.3% increase from current wages
  • Part timers will receive the same 12.3% increase

2.  Historic New Workload Protections 

  • Worker-centered enforcement through worksite reviews and walkthroughs of janitor’s workloads
  • A groundbreaking professional study through the University of Minnesota on the workload problems in our worksites, developed through an industry wide committee

3.  Expanded Part Time Benefits

  • For the first time part-time janitors will receive full healthcare benefits and will have paid sick days

4.  Improved Benefits for Full time Janitors 

  • Healthcare benefits improved, low premiums protected and disability pay increased

5.  Better Job Security

  • Prevented boss proposal to cut full time positions in the market
  • Janitors won a “just cause” clause for the first time, which means they cannot fire janitors without reason

6.  Other Wins 

  • Company must make “good faith effort to accommodate” workers who want to take New Years Eve or Eid off from work on paid time
  • Protections of benefits when buildings switch contractors
  • A better process for accessing earned vacation time

Background on contract negotiations for janitors: On February 17th the janitors with SEIU Local 26 walked off the job on a 24-hour ULP strike, and on February 25th 11 janitors and allies took arrest in peaceful civil disobedience at U.S. Bank Headquarters. The sub-contractors who employ the janitors to clean some of the most prominent and wealthy buildings in the state held 18 negotiation sessions with janitors starting in October of 2015, including multiple marathon sessions that lasted over 10 hours. The janitors in SEIU Local 26 are over 90% people of color, so fair pay and benefits have an immediate impact on the communities most impacted by our state’s racial and economic disparities, some of the worst in the country.

 

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                                    SEIU Local 26 is Minnesota’s Property Services Union, uniting more than 6,000 janitors, security officers, and window cleaners in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. SEIU unites more than 375,000 property services workers nationally, and over 2 million including workers in healthcare and the public sector.

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Union Leaders and People of Color Union Members Highlight Support for Janitors Contract Fight

As bargaining continues, labor movement shows solidarity with janitors days ahead of new strike deadline

Minneapolis, Minn – Union leaders from the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation (MLRF), including The People of Color Union Member (POCUM) Caucus, spoke out today to highlight their support for the janitors of SEIU Local 26. The janitors have announced a new strike deadline for Monday, March 7th, after which they could call a strike if there continues to be no progress in negotiations. These events come just weeks after POCUM and the MRLF convened the AFL-CIO’s National Commission on Racial and Economic Justice to Minneapolis, for a two-day event focused on increasing racial equity in the labor movement and labor’s involvement in racial justice issues. At the press conference, which also included representatives from the St. Paul Regional Labor Federation, AFSCME, the North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters and many other unions, the speakers brought up the racial disparities faced by janitors and other workers in the Minneapolis economy.

Cathy Jones, a leader of POCUM and a union letter carrier, spoke at the event and shared why this fight is so important in the fight to start addressing and rolling back racial disparities in our state.

“We completely stand in solidarity with our brother and sister janitors at SEIU Local 26. This campaign is about living wages and racial equity. Workers of color are demanding better in this city and this is something we should all stand behind,” said Jones. “By not having a fair contract, janitors could announce a strike if they don’t get a fair offer by Monday. We hope it doesn’t have to go there, but we stand with them if they do.”

Another POCUM leader, Silvia Gonzalez a union electrician, connected the recent Racial and Economic Justice forum in Minnesota to the current fight by SEIU Local 26 janitors, 90% of whom are people of color.

“We are on the heels of the national AFL-CIO Commission on Racial and Economic Justice held just last month. We (POCUM) are leading an effort for equity in the workplace and stand in solidarity with the SEIU 26 janitors who are demanding a fair contract and putting their livelihoods on the line to fight for better working conditions,” said Gonzalez.

Joining POCUM leaders were labor members and leaders from Minneapolis and St. Paul, including the President of the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation, Chelsie Glaubitz Gabiou, who shared the broad support the janitors have from the Twin Cities labor movement.

“The Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation, the labor movement and the entire workers movement stand with our janitors. The workers who clean our offices and workplaces are often invisible to our day to day lives– but, they are not invisible in our movement,” sad Glaubitz. “In February we unanimously enacted strike sanctions for the 1-day strike on behalf of our union janitors and our non-union retail janitors. We will support our janitors and all workers who are fighting for dignity and family-sustaining wages—even with the possibility of an open-ended strike looming in the near future.”

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Photo Courtesy of Union Advocate

Also speaking at the event was janitor and leader of the bargaining team Brahim Kone, who shared updates on bargaining and thanked POCUM and the labor movement for the support as the union continues the fight for a fair contract that supports families and begins to roll back our state’s harmful racial and economic inequalities.

Background on contract negotiations for janitors: On February 17th the janitors with SEIU Local 26 walked off the job on a 24-hour ULP strike, and on February 25th 11 janitors and allies took arrest in peaceful civil disobedience at U.S. Bank Headquarters as they’ve continued their calls for a fair wages, a solution to a growing workload crisis (many janitors clean the equivalent of over 20 homes per night) and benefits that support healthy families. The sub-contractors who employ the janitors to clean some of the most prominent and wealthy buildings in the state have so far refused to offer anything near a fair deal in the 13 bargaining sessions they have held since October of 2015, including a marathon 23-hour session Friday to Saturday Feb. 26-27. The janitors in SEIU Local 26 are over 90% people of color, so fair pay and benefits would have an immediate impact on the communities most impacted by our state’s racial and economic disparities, some of the worst in the country. After months of negotiating, janitors set a new strike deadline for March 7th if no contract is reached.

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Minnesota Epilepsy Group Healthcare Workers Approve New Contract That Establishes $15 Minimum Wage

The healthcare workers have ratified a new three-year deal with a landmark increase to $15 an hour minimum wage

St. Paul, Minn – SEIU Healthcare Minnesota members at the Minnesota Epilepsy Group (MEG), a comprehensive adult and pediatric epilepsy program which has cared for over 15,000 people in the last three years alone, ratified a new 3-year contract that, among other big gains, establishes a $15 per hour minimum wage for the first time for all SEIU members at the St. Paul-based specialty healthcare provider. The $15 wage is a huge step and comes as the national Fight for $15 movement is growing across the country. 

Glenn Livezey is an EEG Tech at MEG and a union steward for SEIU Healthcare MN. He spoke about why the bargaining team pressed for reaching the goal of $15 by the end of the contract for every worker.

“At a time when more and more jobs are low-wage jobs that cannot even begin to support a family, it is clear that $15 is a level that all workplaces should be striving for as a bottom line. Setting a floor at $15 is good for staff and good for the people we care for because it will mean less turnover and more stability for those who come to our clinic for care,” said Livezey. “We are proud that our members stood together to reach this goal, and believe it will strengthen the work we do at MEG. When people start at a fair wage, and go up accordingly, they can stay on the job and learn to use their skills and experience to provide the best care possible to everyone who walks through our doors. We hope this win can help spread the message that fair wages and benefits are possible if people stick together and fight for what is right.”

Management at MEG also praised the deal as a way ensure that great staff are recruited and retained at MEG.

“We are truly very happy with the course and outcome of our negotiations,” said Steve Cohen, CEO of the Minnesota Epilepsy Group. “MEG’s management team felt a real spirit of collaboration with the bargaining unit negotiators, especially with regard to a shared desire to see a $15 minimum. We are in complete agreement that respected, fairly compensated staff members will provide the best service for the people we care for.”

Ward 2 St. Paul City Council Member Rebecca Noecker, in whose Ward MEG’s primary location is based, praised the workers and managements coming together to hit a $15 minimum wage for MEG workers.

“I am glad to see labor and the private sector working together to achieve their shared goals in Ward 2. When employers ensure that their employees earn enough to live in and enjoy our city, all of us benefit.  MEG should be commended for making such a bold move toward equity in our community.”

The contract represents approximately 50 EEG technicians who serve in MEG’s two clinics as well as in the four area hospitals in which MEG operates. The members of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota ratified the contract late on Friday, February 26th with 97% of the votes approving the contract. It is a three year contract that will be effective as of January 1, 2016.

 

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SEIU Healthcare Minnesota represents over 35,000 healthcare and long term care workers in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and home care across Minnesota.

www.seiuhcmn.org

Minnesota Epilepsy Group is a Level 4 epilepsy center, the highest level awarded by the National Association of Epilepsy Centers.  As a Level 4 center MEG provides a level of care that leads to better outcomes for patients, better lifetime management, and better services for all those affected by epilepsy.

www.mnepilepsy.org

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Twin Cities Janitors and Supporters Arrested in Peaceful Civil Disobedience at US Bank HQ as Part of Contract Fight

As employers continue to stall in reaching fair contract, group brings fight to the buildings they clean

Minneapolis, Minn – Following their 24-hour Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) strike on Feb. 17th, the first in decades by sub-contracted janitors, and a Monday negotiating session where the employers continued to ignore calls for a fair contract that supports the families of Local 26 janitors and starts to roll back our state’s worst-in-the-nation racial inequalities,11 people were arrested at US Bank Headquarters — a building SEIU Local 26 janitors clean — in an act of civil disobedience. The people arrested held signs saying “U.S. Bank You Can Fix This,” “Fair Contract Now,” “End Racial Disparities” and the main contract demands from janitors, including “#Fightfor15,” “Fix Workload Crisis NOW” and “Support Healthy Families!”

Javier_Janitor_protest_20160225_rsThe group picked the location to highlight the powerful, wealthy buildings that they clean and how the building owners are the ultimate deciders. They noted that if those who have real power don’t feel any urgency for a contract to settle, the employers of the janitors will continue to hold back progress on a fair contract.

“Janitors have sat at the negotiating table 12 times, and yet the bosses continue to ignore our calls for a fair contract for janitors that will start to roll back the racial and economic inequalities facing our state. The ULP strike last week and the action taken today both highlight the increasing level of frustration from the unending stalling, delays and rejections from employers,” said Sonja Cortez, a janitor and leader on the bargaining team. “Today we came directly to where janitors clean to make sure those in power know we are serious and that our employers need to begin to move and take action towards a real settlement. We want $15 for all workers, a solution to our workload crisis that sees many janitors clean the equivalent of over 20 homes every single night, and policies that allow us to have healthy families. We have negotiation sessions scheduled this weekend, and we hope the employers come with a serious offer, or more actions like the strike last week and civil disobedience today will be our only option.”

Background: After months of negotiations, janitors across the Metro went on 24-hour ULP strike on Feb. 17th in light of stalling, delays and intimidation from employers. Janitors with SEIU Local 26, 90% of whom are people of color, voted to authorize their bargaining committee to call a unfair labor practice strike on January 23rd after no movement in bargaining over a new contract for the 4,000 janitors in the Twin Cities. Workers have been fighting for a $15 floor for all workers, a fix to a growing workload crisis and policies that support healthy families. In response they have only seen stalling from employers. Employers have offered a small raise for full time workers, but not part time, and have not addressed workload. Janitors are fighting for a fair contract that allows for healthy families and strengthens our community by fighting to address income and racial disparities plaguing our state. Janitors have held 12 negotiating sessions since October with their employers. They have bargaining sessions on Friday and Saturday this week. Their current three-year contract expired on Dec. 31st.

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                                    SEIU Local 26 is Minnesota’s Property Services Union, uniting more than 6,000 janitors, security officers, and window cleaners in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. SEIU unites more than 375,000 property services workers nationally, and over 2 million including workers in healthcare and the public sector.

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Twin Cities Janitors Begin Unfair Labor Practice Strike

STRIKE_2_rsMinneapolis, Minn – After months of bargaining, and in response to stalling and delays from employers, janitors with SEIU Local 26 have walked off the jobs on an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) strike. The 24-hour strike, which will happen throughout the day as workers would have started their shifts, will hit some of the largest and most prominent buildings throughout the metro. It is the first strike by sub-contracted union janitors in decades.

Picket lines will be announced as the day goes on, and a joint rally of striking janitors will happen from 7 pm to 10 pm at 2nd Ave and 6th St (US Bank Plaza) in Downtown Minneapolis.

Samuel Castenada, a janitor contracted to clean the Atria Coroprate Center in Plymouth, spoke about the workload crisis facing janitors, which was the subject of a recent report, and why he is going on strike.

“Many of us now have to finish cleaning jobs that used to take more than 12 hours in an 8 hour shift because of new pressures from our employers. Many janitors like myself clean the equivalent of over 20 homes in a night. Imagine cleaning 20 houses every day! I recently had an operation on my shoulder, and many of my co-workers are getting sick or injured as well,” said Castenada. “That is why we are coming together and fighting back. We are on a ULP strike all across the metro because we can’t allow our employers to stall or delay any longer in reaching a fair contract.”

Juana Arriaga, who cleans the Prime Theoretic Headquarters in Eagen, shared how a $15 floor being proposed by janitors would help families like hers and bring positive change as our state is facing harrowing racial and economic disparities.

“I work incredibly hard, yet I only make $12.15 per hour, and other janitors make as little as $11 per hour. At a time when some are getting richer and richer, those of us who are contracted to clean the buildings of some of the wealthiest corporations in the state shouldn’t have to struggle to get by. We have found out that winning $15 for all janitors would lead to tens of millions of dollars each year being pumped into communities across the Twin Cities. The fact that over 90% of janitors in our union are people of color means fair raises for janitors would be going back into areas that have been left behind by our economy for far too long and help boost our economy for all of us,” said Arriaga. “I have to work two jobs because of my pay. We are striking because if we get a fair contract, families of janitors in Local 26 will see a better life, but it also can be a first steps towards really making our state a more equal and fair place.”

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SEIU Local 26 is Minnesota’s Property Services Union, uniting more than 6,000 janitors, security officers, and window cleaners in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. SEIU unites more than 225,000 property services workers nationally, and over 2 million including workers in healthcare and the public sector.

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