St. Paul, MN—On Tuesday and Wednesday this week, 3,500 members of the Service Employees International Union Healthcare Minnesota (SEIU HCMN,) overwhelmingly voted to ratify a new 3 year contract with eight metro area hospitals: Fairview Southdale Hospital in Edina, Fairview Riverside Hospital in Minneapolis, Children’s Hospitals in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Health East’s Bethesda Hospital in St. Paul and St. John’s Hospital in Maplewood, North Memorial Hospital in Robbinsdale, and Park Nicollet/Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park.
“Many of the contract changes the hospitals wanted posed significant cuts to the extent that earning family-sustaining incomes were put at-risk for most of these low-wage workers,” says Tee McClenty. “While the hospitals were asking us workers to work more for less, we were simply trying to hold the line on proposed cuts that would have reduced benefits like overtime and health insurance. I’m satisfied with what we protected and achieved,” adds Jermaine Rayford, a longtime cook at Fairview Southdale Hospital.
Workers are increasingly facing workplace environments in these non-profit hospitals that are more akin to corporate climates where profits are put ahead of everything else. “Our approach during negotiations had been not only on behalf of our members but also on behalf of those they serve and the larger issues workers across this state and country are facing every day by corporate powers,” she adds.
The previous contract expired in late February and negotiations had been on-going until workers voted last week in support of a 2-to-5 day strike unless an agreement could be reached. Negotiators did reach a tentative agreement on the heels of that strike vote. Now, with today’s ratification of the contract the issue is resolved. “But it’s resolved only until next time,” adds McClenty. “As long as workplace fairness, and patients’ best interests, are sacrificed for profits then our work never really ends.”
*The 3,500 affected workers include: nursing assistants, ER techs maintenance and food service personnel, clerks, warehouse staff, environmental services staff and others.