Press Releases

Changes to Nursing Home Reimbursement In Gov. Walz’s Budget Raise Questions For Nursing Home Workers

SAINT PAUL—In response to the budget released today by Governor Walz and Lt. Governor Flanagan that proposes cuts for some Minnesota nursing homes, St. Charles nursing home worker and SEIU Healthcare Minnesota member Jeanne Schulz released the following statement.

 

MN Capitol Dome“Minnesotans are caring and compassionate. We believe that our family, friends and neighbors living in nursing homes like the one where I work — no matter their race, income or zip code — should be able to have what they need to live full and happy lives. Seeing a proposed cut for nursing homes in the budget, without clarity on who that cut will effect, is worrisome to those of us who do this critical work every day.

 

“We understand that the proposal says cuts would be focused on reining in ballooning costs for out-of-state management and executives, and we share a strong concern about the wave of acquisitions of Minnesota nursing homes by out-of-state companies in recent months and the impact those changes have had on nursing residents and workers. But we know that the line-item being targeted for cuts, called “other operating costs,” includes many hard-working frontline staff, not just management and administration. Members like me whose main job is to cook the food, clean the building, take out the trash, or work in the laundry are considered “other operating costs” simply because we are not doing the direct resident care a nursing assistant or nurse performs. And many of us are already making $3-$5/hour less than our nursing-assistant coworkers because the reimbursement reform passed by state lawmakers in 2015 focused only on the workers involved in direct care.  

 

“We made important progress in 2015 by increasing nursing home funding all across Minnesota, but we still have a ways to go to make sure every nursing home is a world-class facility for residents and staff. A good reimbursement system needs to invest in workers, not out-of-state administrators. As this proposal moves forward we hope to get some important questions answered, to make sure the state is cutting out real waste and unnecessary expenses, not taking from the front-line employees who keep our buildings clean and our seniors fed. The lives of thousands of Minnesotans across our state depend on it.”

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The SEIU Minnesota State Council coordinates the electoral, legislative and outreach work of the SEIU Locals in Minnesota to increase the effectiveness of their efforts to organize unorganized workers in critical sectors of our economy, improve wages, hours and working conditions, and build political and legislative power for all workers and their families.  The State Council’s board is comprised of elected leaders, SEIU members and staff of the various SEIU Local Unions in Minnesota, and that board, with the active participation and input of our broader membership, determines our endorsements.

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Minnesotans Praise Gov. Walz’s Budget that Protects and Expands Affordable Health Care

St. Paul—Today, Governor Walz and Lt. Governor Flanagan released their two year budget proposal which repeals the sunset of the 27 year old health care provider tax—protecting health care for one million Minnesotans—and lays the groundwork to expand affordable health care throughout the state with ONECare.

Thank_You_Walz_FlanaganTakeAction Minnesota, SEIU, Land Stewardship Project, and ISAIAH released the following statement:

“As Minnesotans, we care about each other. When one person can’t afford or access the health care they need, it hurts all of us. We’re strongest when no one is left behind, and when our health care centers people.

This last election saw thousands of conversations about healthcare and what we need to make sure our state moves forward. Our elected officials are responsible for making health care work for everyone, no exception. It’s clear that Governor Walz has heard the frustration and heartbreak over health care in every corner of the state and is taking action with his first budget to address these challenges. His budget protects health care for one million Minnesotans and lays the groundwork to expand affordable health care, all without giving handouts to insurance companies. Minnesotans want bold action on health care and Gov. Walz is leading the way.”

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The SEIU Minnesota State Council coordinates the electoral, legislative and outreach work of the SEIU Locals in Minnesota to increase the effectiveness of their efforts to organize unorganized workers in critical sectors of our economy, improve wages, hours and working conditions, and build political and legislative power for all workers and their families.  The State Council’s board is comprised of elected leaders, SEIU members and staff of the various SEIU Local Unions in Minnesota, and that board, with the active participation and input of our broader membership, determines our endorsements.

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Red Wing Care Center Nursing Home Operator Leaves Town, Refuses to Pay Wages & Benefits for Hundreds of Employees

Red Wing, Minn — Employees of the Red Wing Care Center Nursing Home found out late last week, after working a full pay period, that their employer Welcov Healthcare had filed for bankruptcy and refused to pay for work they had done. The payroll owed by Welcov was for over $200,000, and that doesn’t even take into account vacation and sick time that these workers may lose.

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Jamie Gulley, the President of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, the Union that represents many of the employees, shared the frustration felt by the workers, the residents and all Minnesotans impacted by the greed from companies like Welcov as our state continues to face a care crisis caused by lack of funding and support for nursing homes.

“It is frustrating that another employer is treating the people who care for our families this way. This is the latest case of Minnesota’s growing wage theft crisis and also a clear example of why we have a care crisis, where families struggle to find the care they want and deserve,” said Gulley. “Would you do this critical, important, incredibly hard work if you may not be paid for your hours or if you could lose your accrued sick and vacation benefits? It’s time that our state takes this issue seriously, both addressing the actions of bad actors and proactively making sure these shady business practices are stopped once and for all.”

In recent months Welcov Healthcare had signed an agreement to transition operations of the nursing home to a new operator effective last week, and as part of the transition agreement they were responsible for the payroll through last week and were to transition all accrued benefits (sick leave and vacation time) to the new operator upon transition. Unfortunately, this did not happen. Just before the end of the pay period, Welcov told the new operator they were declaring bankruptcy and did not pay the wages it owed. Now, employees and the residents they care for are being punished for Welcov’s greed. Just last month the Star Tribune reported that “Welcov’s owners plan to start a new business that will focus on a handful of healthcare facilities in Wyoming.”

This is just the latest example of Nursing Home operators bailing on employees and Minnesota communities. In 2015 Deseret Health Group in Owatonna went bankrupt, forcing the state to put them in receivership and put Volunteers of America in charge until they could place all the residents in other nursing homes, eventually resulting in the nursing home closing. It was later discovered the employer was deducting insurance premiums from workers checks and not submitting to the insurance company. Extendicare (Robbinsdale and Texas Terrace facilities) went bankrupt and the courts put another management company in charge, with one (Fortis) going bankrupt as well. Workers at two facilities lost their sick pay.

The workers and their Union, SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, have notified the AG’s office and are preparing to take any and all legal action possible to ensure Welcov pays workers what they are owed.

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

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SEIU Home Care Workers Announce Tentative Agreement With State of Minnesota

SAINT PAUL — Late Monday night the home care workers of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota reached a Tentative Agreement (TA) with the state of Minnesota for their third union contract, a two-year contract that would begin in July of 2019.

HCW_group_photo_rsThe bargaining team — made up of home care workers, clients and family caregivers — negotiated with the state over three months to reach this agreement. The bargaining team fought to address the care crisis, a workforce shortage that has grown to over 8,000 openings because of the low wages and lack of benefits for this work. This crisis continues to result in seniors and people with disabilities not being able to find workers to provide the care that they need to stay safely in their homes.

The full details of the TA won’t be shared until members have a chance to see the tentative agreement and vote on its approval, but highlights include funding so reimbursement rates and client budgets will go up 2.37% for everyone, with those making the minimum wage seeing a 10.4% wage increase from $12 to $13.25; $750,000 for trainings and orientation to help workers gain and build skills; increased Paid Time Off; and an additional increase in wages for workers serving clients who need the highest hours of care.

Dalene Annen, a home care worker on the bargaining team from rural Minnesota, shared her feelings about the tentative agreement as someone who does this critical work.

“The work done by home care workers is critical for thousands of families across Minnesota, which is why we fight so hard to improve our industry. We’re proud of the gains that we’ve made in this contract, but we know that we have a lot more work to do to get the kind of wages, benefits and recognition that can fix the care crisis,” said Annen, who lives in Winnebago, a small town near the Iowa border. “The money we secured for home care workers and our clients will help to make a more dedicated workforce and move us to our goal of making sure that every Minnesotan– no where we live, the color of our skin, or our income– can get quality care to be able to stay in their homes and not be forced into institutions. Because we’ve stuck together, caregivers are getting better wages and benefits than we had before.”

If the Tentative Agreement gets ratified by Union members, it will then go to the legislature for their approval and funding. The final step would be having it signed by Governor Walz and go into effect July 1st, 2019. The negotiations took place in the months preceding budget negotiations in order to ensure that legislators have the opportunity to review the terms of the proposed agreement and vote on whether to ratify it.

Lauren Thompson, a client who was on the bargaining team, stressed the importance of the legislature ratifying the agreement once it gains approval from home care workers.

“After years of under investment in this workforce, and undervaluing the people who rely on these services, this contract is a step towards addressing the care crisis. Elected officials statewide must look beyond party lines and understand the importance of investing in home care. It is a matter of dignity and quality of life, it is a matter of survival,” said Thompson. “Home care workers, clients and our families will be at the Capitol this session to make sure that the contract gets ratified and that these gains are upheld. We will continue to strive for better wages, benefits and professional standards that home care workers deserve. This is vital so that I, and the thousands of other Minnesotans like me, will be able to survive and thrive in our homes and in our community.”

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The SEIU Minnesota State Council coordinates the electoral, legislative and outreach work of the SEIU Locals in Minnesota to increase the effectiveness of their efforts to organize unorganized workers in critical sectors of our economy, improve wages, hours and working conditions, and build political and legislative power for all workers and their families.  The State Council’s board is comprised of elected leaders, SEIU members and staff of the various SEIU Local Unions in Minnesota, and that board, with the active participation and input of our broader membership, determines our endorsements.

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Minnesota Home Care Workers Bring Minimum Wage Proposal of at Least $15 to Negotiations with State of Minnesota

Proposal comes as seniors and people with disabilities in Minnesota face an ongoing care crisis that has grown to 8,000 unfilled job openings caused by low wages

SAINT PAUL – On Wednesday afternoon, at their most recent bargaining session with the state of Minnesota, the bargaining team for the home care workers with SEIU Healthcare Minnesota presented a proposal to bring all home care workers in the bargaining unit to at least $15 per hour during the next two-year contract they are currently negotiating. The home care bargaining team includes workers, clients and family members of seniors and people with disabilities who receive care services. (more…)

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SEIU Members Across Minnesota Celebrate Election of Tim Walz for Governor & Other SEIU-Endorsed Candidates

Members & staff contacted hundreds of thousands of Minnesota voters leading up to election, proud of work in win that shows state is Greater Than Fear

SAINT PAUL — With news that Tim Walz and Peggy Flanagan have been elected as the next Governor and Lt. Governor of Minnesota, SEIU members expressed pride and excitement over their work to help elect these two champions of working people. SEIU members and staff door knocked, phone banked, texted and had worksite conversations with hundreds of thousands of Minnesota voters in the months leading up to the election, making sure they knew which candidates stood with working families.

Walz_SEIU_Member_rsNazra Ahmed, a home care worker who is a member of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, shared about the tireless work that SEIU members and staff put in this election in order to make sure our state elects candidates who will fight for our families.

“As a home care worker I know the importance of having people who understand and support our families in office. I’m proud of the thousands of hours that SEIU members in Minnesota have put in door knocking and phone banking supporting candidates who support us,” said Ahmed. “I’ve never been involved in politics before this election, but now I feel like I’ve found my voice as I join others working towards electing people who will work with us to build a state where every family — white, black or brown — have quality care so seniors and people with disabilities, and the people who care for them, can live full and happy lives.”

Seeing an educator running for Governor helped motivate members of SEIU Local 284 like Beverly Tinney, a para-educator in the Mounds View Schools and a member of the union who spent months talking to voters about SEIU-endorsed candidates in her free time.

“I’m one of many SEIU members who has been talking to voters across Minnesota for the last few months. I’m happy our hard work has helped move our state in the right direction. Electing Tim Walz, an educator, as our next Governor, is especially important to me. As a public school employee, I know how important it is to have someone in that office who values education,” said Tinney. “We know that we need to continue our work tomorrow for a more fair and equitable world for all families in our state, but I’m glad to know we will be doing it with so many champions of working families in office.”

SEIU members not only talked to fellow union members and general public voters, but ran campaigns to bring in underrepresented voters to the election process. Abdi Haybe, a security officer with SEIU Local 26, helped reach voters from the East African community both in the Twin Cities and in communities across the state.

“Some politicians and their corporate backers tried to divide us by the color of our color, our religion or where we live, but today, with our vote, we showed them that Minnesotans are greater than fear by electing the candidates who offered hope instead of scapegoating and division,” said Haybe. “We worked hard to make sure we got out the vote to elect candidates who support working families. I’m so excited to we elected candidates like Keith Ellison for Attorney General and Tina Smith for Senate to make sure Minnesota is a state that works for ALL families, not just those at the top.”

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The SEIU Minnesota State Council coordinates the electoral, legislative and outreach work of the SEIU Locals in Minnesota to increase the effectiveness of their efforts to organize unorganized workers in critical sectors of our economy, improve wages, hours and working conditions, and build political and legislative power for all workers and their families.  The State Council’s board is comprised of elected leaders, SEIU members and staff of the various SEIU Local Unions in Minnesota, and that board, with the active participation and input of our broader membership, determines our endorsements.

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SEIU Minnesota State Council Endorses Tim Walz for Governor & Peggy Flanagan for Lt. Governor

SAINT PAUL — The SEIU Minnesota State Council, which brings together over 50,000 working people across the state, announced today the endorsement of Congressman Tim Walz for governor and State Representative Peggy Flanagan for lieutenant governor. SEIU members are on the front lines of the fight for good union jobs, quality affordable healthcare, fully-funded public schools and communities that are safe and welcoming for all families. Members from all three of the largest SEIU locals in Minnesota shared their excitement in supporting the Walz/Flanagan ticket.Congrats_Tim_Peggy_rs

LaDonna Meinecke, a clinical social worker who is a member of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, shared why she is excited to support Walz/Flanagan this fall.
“In the 10 years I have known Tim Walz, I have been impressed with how he speaks truth to power on behalf of working families in Congress. I look forward to him continuing this practice in St. Paul,” said Meinecke. “Our state needs a governor who will stand up to Republicans like Jeff Johnson who will try to use fear-mongering gimmicks to make us afraid of people who look different than us or live in a different part of the state. Such divisiveness does not reflect Minnesota values and it does not move us forward in finding solutions to real problems. I unequivocally support Tim Walz to be the next governor of Minnesota. He will work tirelessly to unify Minnesotans in our efforts to improve the well being of all families in our state by focusing on the things that really matter: good jobs, affordable healthcare, quality public schools, and safe, livable communities.”

Val Rolstad, a special education school worker and member of SEIU Local 284, spoke about why she was excited for the team of Walz and Flanagan to continue Governor Mark Dayton’s legacy.

“I know that Tim and Peggy are going to be a dynamic team in the governor’s office. Having Peggy Flanagan as lieutenant governor alongside Tim means that the governor’s office will always be a place that listens to and fights for all families in our state, not just those at the top,” said Rolstad. “There are so many critical issues at stake in this election, including the need to invest in our public schools, and Tim and Peggy are clearly the best choice to fight alongside working families in Minnesota. I’m excited to spend this fall talking to my friends and neighbors about this critical election and why the Walz/Flanagan ticket are who we need to keep our state moving forward.”

Candy Wright, a security officer and member of SEIU Local 26, joined fellow SEIU members in showing excitement over SEIU’s endorsement of Walz and Flanagan.

“I am so excited my union is supporting Tim and Peggy in this year’s election. Minnesotans deserve leaders who are going to fight for the things that matter to our families like good union jobs, healthcare we can afford and schools that help our students thrive. Tim and Peggy are the clear choice to keep our state moving forward,” said Wright. “Despite our differences, Minnesotans are united in our belief that all families, no matter the color of our skin or where we live, should be able to live safe, healthy and happy lives. I’ll be working hard to elect Tim and Peggy this fall because I know they share our values and are the best choice to make our state a place that works for every family in Minnesota, not just the rich and powerful.”

SEIU is Minnesota’s third largest and fastest-growing labor union, representing over 50,000 workers statewide 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.  SEIU members are employed in a variety of occupations, including:

  • Hospital, clinic, nursing home and in-home support workers with SEIU Healthcare Minnesota
  • Public school and early childhood workers, and university faculty with SEIU Local 284
  • Commercial and public building maintenance employees and security officers with SEIU Local 26
  • Hospitality, commercial laundry, manufacturing and distribution workers with Workers United

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The SEIU Minnesota State Council coordinates the electoral, legislative and outreach work of the SEIU Locals in Minnesota to increase the effectiveness of their efforts to organize unorganized workers in critical sectors of our economy, improve wages, hours and working conditions, and build political and legislative power for all workers and their families.  The State Council’s board is comprised of elected leaders, SEIU members and staff of the various SEIU Local Unions in Minnesota, and that board, with the active participation and input of our broader membership, determines our endorsements.

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105 Stillwater Medical Group Healthcare Workers Vote to Join SEIU Healthcare Minnesota

Victory Comes Just One Month After Supreme Court Case Attacking Workers, Shows Workers Won’t Stop Fighting for Better Lives for Our Families

Stillwater, Minn — Following an election Wednesday that saw 70% of the workers voting choosing to join the union, 105 healthcare workers with the Stillwater Medical Group became members of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota. The group at the main campus in Stillwater includes CMAs (Certified Medical Assistant) (CMA), LPNs (Licensed Practical Nurse) and RMAs (Registered Medical Assistants). This victory came just weeks after the Janus ruling by the Supreme Court tried to make it harder for workers and their unions to build power in the public sector.union signs SMG pic

“I have seen what unions can do. With our Union we now will have more rights and more protections to improve our lives and the lives of our patients,” said Leah Buehler, a CMA at the clinic.

The group was part of the union until 2010 when their union was broken by a boss-driven decertification campaign. Within the last year the group came together to win a new union to help win a voice on the job, better working conditions and better care for their patients. They joined SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, one of the largest and fastest growing unions in the state.

“We don’t want management to make all the decisions and changes with no input from us anymore, or to have meetings after they have already decided something and we don’t get a say,” said LPN Satin Washington. “Half the time we don’t even get to go to those meetings because we are so busy we never get to take a break. I’m looking forward to us having a unified voice.”

Despite promises from the boss that they wouldn’t go backwards if they left their union in 2010, many in the group went from some of the highest paid in their field to having their pay and benefits fall behind other clinics.

“Every year we have been getting less and less.  When we had no union, management had all the power, and we had no voice,” said CMA Angela Peulen. “Now we have a legally binding voice as union members to win positive changes for ourselves and our patients!”

Despite getting pushback as they organized their union, the group remained united and won their decisive victory Wednesday that will set them up to make real changes in their clinic.

“Forming our union shows that we support each other,” said CMA Laura Boyle. “We were all separate before, but now we are together. We are united in our goal of winning positive change for ourselves and the patients we care for every day.”

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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.

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Home Care Workers and Clients Disappointed at Lack of Action on Home Care Crisis During Legislative Session, Vow to Mobilize “Care Voters” in November

Saint Paul, Minn—The 2018 legislative session ended without any new investments in home care work, despite high profile attention to a care crisis that is affecting seniors and people with disabilities across the state. The crisis was front-page news with stories highlighting the fact that there are over 8,000 vacancies in the state’s personal care attendant programs due to low wages and lack of benefits.

While disappointed about the lack of investment in care work, home care workers with SEIU did praise legislators from both parties for standing up to protect their union rights from those who attempted to weaken them this session.

“Minnesotans want a state where our loved ones can get the care they need and deserve in their own homes. Home care workers and our clients came to the Capitol throughout the session to make sure our elected officials understood the crisis facing families in every corner of the state,” said Dawn Burnfin, a mother and home care worker from Chisholm in Northern Minnesota and elected member of the SEIU Healthcare Minnesota executive board. “Make no mistake, inaction means more pain, frustration and heartache for families across Minnesota. This is wrong and we will mobilize home care workers to make sure legislators understand the need for investments in care between now and the November elections.”

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The advocacy by SEIU Healthcare Minnesota members, seniors and people with disabilities generated bi-partisan support to raise wages, with bills being introduced in both the House and Senate. Money for a pay increase was included in Governor Dayton’s proposed budget. Despite broad support for the issue, the pay raises were not included in the final budget bill. This inaction has caused frustration for the thousands of families across the state personally affected by this growing crisis.

“While I’m extremely disappointed we didn’t win steps forward for our families around home care funding, it serves as a reminder about the importance of elections and getting people into office who share our values around the care and dignity of our families,” said Delores Flynn, a Union supporter and mother and caretaker of an adult son who needs 24-hour care to stay in his home. “I’m ready to work as hard as possible to make sure we have people in office who understand the challenges facing families like mine.”

Following session, Delores joined home care workers, clients, faith, labor and community organizations in launching a “Care Voter” effort for the 2018 election. The “Care Voter” initiative will seek to mobilize voters to educate candidates and fellow voters about ways the next legislature can support care givers and the people they care for. The “Care Voter” initiative will be a key part of SEIU’s member electoral program this fall and summer.

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SEIU Albert Lea Members Reach Agreement with Mayo

New contract ratified Monday following agreement reached after 2nd strike had been authorized

Albert Lea, Minn — After a contentious, multi-year fight, members of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota who work at the Albert Lea Mayo Hospital have reached an agreement with Mayo Clinic. The two sides reached a tentative agreement the week of May 7th for both groups of workers (general group and skilled maintenance) that have been without contracts for nearly two years.

rs_Albert_Lea_Mayo_HCMN_strikeAfter giving members time to look over the tentative agreement, a majority of SEIU members voted to approve the plan Monday. The agreement came following members authorizing a second strike in a vote in late April. With a possible second, longer strike looming, the two sides were able to reach an agreement that found both sides compromising at the May bargaining sessions.

Workers expressed pride in standing up for good jobs and quality rural healthcare, even as Mayo dug in on certain policy proposals that the group had hoped to stop.

“Being able to win really good pay raises and making sure our contract does not include a subcontracting clause for skilled maintenance jobs were big wins,” said Nate Johnson, Chief Engineer and 20-year Mayo employee. “We wish we had been able to get them to move on everything we wanted, but I’m incredibly proud that we stood up for what is right and won the positive changes that we did. We hope we showed other workers, both here in Albert Lea and across the state, that there is power in standing up for what is right for working families.”

The groups won pay increases ranging from 7.25% to 10% over the three years of the contract. While Mayo won the right to change four core benefits during the term of the contract, workers won a contract provision that those benefits will be offered to all full-time and part-time (.5 and over) employees during the term of the contract, an important win for members. The contract also included protections and support for workers who may have to transition to Austin, even as the union continues to oppose any reductions in staff or services in Albert Lea. It also preserved holiday pay, which was one of the driving issues behind the Dec. 22nd strike and Christmas lockout.

“We took a stand, against the odds, because we believed that the work we do in our community hospital is important for our families, our neighbors and our communities,” said Sheri Wichmann, who has worked in sterile processing for 18 years. “Going on strike and being locked out showed we firmly believed in our fight for good jobs and good healthcare here in Albert Lea. We remain committed to those values. While you always wish you had been able to win everything you set out for at the start, we are proud we were able to move Mayo on important issues facing our families and community.”

As part of the agreement, both sides agreed to drop NLRB charges against the other.

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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.

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