Albert Lea, MN – Today, outside of the Mayo Clinic Health System Albert Lea Hospital, maintenance workers and community supporters held an informational picket to highlight proposals brought forward by Mayo during contract negotiations that could harm 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.
Workers at the picket included Kavin Dressen, the chief engineer who has worked at the hospital since 1989, who highlighted what changes proposed by the hospital would mean for both workers and the community.
“’We do incredibly important work to ensure our hospital stays up and running so families in our community can get the care they deserve. I’m afraid if we don’t fight back as a community against the hospital’s proposal to take away the voice of longtime community members who work at our hospital, it will mean that in the future this will no longer be a “career” job that supports a family and allows someone to make Albert Lea their home. 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. We should be fighting for more jobs that reward hard work, not proposing language that could lead to a race to the bottom,” said Dressen. “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 wants to impose a plan on Albert Lea that will hurt dedicated employees, and the results from their proposals could hurt those who visit our hospital and hurt our community.
“We are out here today on this informational picket because we can’t let that happen,” said Dressen.
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 already had six bargaining sessions over the last three months. Many points of agreement have been reached, but workers expressed dismay over proposed language that takes away the voice of longtime workers.
Also joining the picket was Henry Tews, a maintenance engineer who has worked at the hospital for 26 years.
“The experience we bring in keeping our hospital up and running allows for families in our community to receive the kind of care that they deserve. It is no coincidence that many of us have been working here for multiple decades and have deep roots in our community, things that help us do our job at a high level. The proposals that Mayo is bringing to the table, weakening the rights of the people who make their hospitals run, would move our hospital and our communities in the wrong direction,” said Tews, a father of five. “We know that if we let decision-makers at Mayo start eroding the quality of maintenance jobs, other hospital workers are next. The experience that helps us ensure a safe and well-run hospital is a direct result of the stability that comes from the gains we have won as a Union, things that Mayo are now trying to take away.”
“Albert Lea deserves a well-run hospital and decent jobs that make sure our hospital and community can prosper, Tews continued. “We are out here today on this informational picket to let everyone know that our contract isn’t just about us, it is about the future of our hospital. We can choose fairness that keeps our hospital and our communities strong, or we can choose a profit-driven race to the bottom that risks moving Albert Lea Hospital backwards for workers, and in turn for the patients and our community.”
The next bargaining session will be on Monday, November 23rd, and workers and supporters expressed hope that the hospital will work to reach an agreement on a contract that ensures that workers, patients and the Albert Lea community are shown the value that they deserve.
SEIU Healthcare Minnesota unites more than 42,000 healthcare and long-term care workers in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and home care throughout the state of Minnesota. SEIU represents more than 60,000 members across Minnesota and is a powerful voice working to improve the lives of all Minnesotans.