85 YEARS STRONG!
Our Union, SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, is the oldest Union of healthcare workers in the country. This year, we celebrated the 85th anniversary of our founding. We have grown from a small Union of 200 hospital workers in Minneapolis into a Union of 35,000 healthcare workers, with members in Hospitals, Clinics, Nursing Homes, and Home Care throughout the state of Minnesota. We spent a significant amount of time this year remembering our history while also working to establish new standards for our members today.
In the middle of the great depression, workers throughout the country were fighting for their rights and for legal recognition of their Unions. In the wake of the Minneapolis Teamsters’ Strike, congress passed the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) which created a legal way for workers to form Unions and bargain collectively. Unfortunately, the NLRA left jobs held primarily by women and people of color out of the law. The NLRA excluded health care work, domestic labor and farm labor casting it aside as “not real work”.
In Minnesota, something special happened. The SEIU members at Abbott, Swedish and St. Barnabas Hospitals were not deterred by the limitations of the NLRA. They came together and voted to strike to form their Union anyway. To their credit, the hospital employers recognized our Union and began to bargain a contract. In this manner, our Union, the first Health Care Workers’ Union in the country, was born. Our fight for recognition is special because it included a struggle against racism and gender discrimination in our laws, and in our communities. By taking on these challenges together for the past 85 years, our Union has paved the way and won national standards for our work.
- In 1949, our Union bargained to abolish gender-based wage scales, establishing equal pay for equal work.
- That same year our Union demanded and won a 40-hour work week.
- Our Union was the first in the country to establish a pension plan for healthcare workers.
- Our members were the first in healthcare to win every other weekend off.
- Last year, home care members became the first in the country to win paid holidays!
Workers in several greater Minnesota hospitals led the way this year with spirited bargaining campaigns. Members at Mayo Clinic–Albert Lea, finally won their contract after two years of intense negotiations that included a strike, an illegal lock-out, and a week-long “Unfair Labor Practice” trial. By sticking together and authorizing a second strike, members were able to finally win a better deal. At Chippewa County Hospital in Montevideo, members stuck together through an intense anti-Union campaign by management and won an average $1.60/hour wage increase by an independent arbitrator, after members voted to submit their contract to arbitration. As the year ends, hospital workers at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Brainerd are currently fighting against proposed health care premium cost increases that amount to a $2.50/hour wage cut for those with family coverage.
This year also saw the Union trustees to the Twin City Hospital Workers Pension Plan win approval for a significant increase in benefits. Starting Jan. 1, 2019 (and covering all future years) the monthly benefit will increase from $29/month to $31/month per year of service, a 7 percent increase in benefits!
When hundreds of our members who are immigrants to the United States from Liberia faced the potential loss of their right to work in the United States under the Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) program, our Union held “know your rights” trainings for affected members, and we helped members in their successful effort lobby for an extension of the DED program.
This year, Minnesota’s home care workers, saw the launch of new training programs negotiated by our Union. The training program includes a $500 stipend for members completing the program and a pay differential for workers caring for clients with complex care needs. The state also launched the new matching registry that members bargained to create, which will make it easier for home care clients to find workers who need extra hours. As caregivers and Union members we built this great Union to make sure that our work will continue to be seen, as “real work” and that as caregivers- we are treated with dignity and the right to stand up for our patients. We have achieved great things together over the last 85 years and this year was another incredible year of progress for our members!