Union files 10-day notice; strike would begin Feb. 19th if no agreement is reached
(Saint Paul, MN) – SEIU Healthcare Minnesota members at HealthPartners voted overwhelmingly Thursday to approve a 7-day Unfair Labor Practices (ULP) strike for 1,800 members by a vote of 95% to 5%. Union members announced that a 10-day strike notice would be filed Friday and that if no agreement is reached, workers would begin their 7-day ULP strike on the morning of Wednesday, February 19th.
Kate Lynch, an LPN for 31 years at HealthPartners who is an elected Vice President of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota and part of the bargaining team, announced the results outside of the HealthPartners Neuroscience clinic, backed by the bargaining team and community supporters, many holding signs saying “We’ve Earned Our Healthcare”:
“I have mixed feelings about today’s news. I am so happy to stand with my fellow union members who overwhelmingly voted to authorize this strike in our fight for what we need for ourselves and our families, and what is best for our patients. But as a 31-year employee and 9-time member of our bargaining team, after years of good relationships these negotiations felt incredibly disrespectful. I’ve been proud to work here all these years, but now it feels like they are putting profits over patients. We are making clear to HealthPartners management today the fact that we are united to win for what is right for our families and ready to get back to the table whenever they are ready to negotiate a fair contract,” said Lynch. “Over our four months of bargaining, HealthPartners has insisted on harmful cost-shifting and cuts to our benefits, while offering a measly wage increase that doesn’t keep up with inflation while HealthPartners made $7 billion in revenue last year and our CEO made over $2 million in compensation.”
Clara Boykin, a 30-year HealthPartners employee and also a member of the bargaining team, shared why she voted “Yes” to authorize a strike:
“I have always been so proud to work at HealthPartners. The health insurance we have won over the years has been so important to me and has allowed all of us to provide award-winning care. But these proposed rollbacks would change that. I voted yes to strike not for myself but for the next generation of SEIU members who deserve the quality healthcare we’ve won over the years to take care of their families,” said Boykin. “I work with so many SEIU members who I know want to build on the award-winning care we’ve always provided here at HealthPartners. But I know the great health benefits for ourselves and our families attracted many staff here and I’m afraid of losing talented caregivers if we allow these cuts to happen. We are united in protecting the healthcare benefits we’ve earned so we can get back to serving our patients. And we deserve a wage increase that honors the hard work we do every day. We are the people HealthPartners patients come through the doors every day to get care from, and we deserve to be treated with respect.”
The 1,800 workers in the bargaining unit represent nearly all caregivers other than doctors, including RNs, dental hygienists, LPNs, CMAs, midwives, lab techs, physicians assistants, and over 80 different jobs in total. They work at 30 HealthPartners clinics across the Twin Cities, providing award-winning care and helping to make our communities healthier. The vote was held Thursday for 15 hours at five locations across the Twin Cities.
HealthPartners executives have proposed huge cuts and cost-shifting to the health benefits caregivers have won over the years. The cost-shifting measures come after the Star Tribune reported that HealthPartners CEO Andrea Walsh received over $2 million in pay last year, while the company earned a record-breaking $7 billion in revenue. The contract between HealthPartners and SEIU Healthcare Minnesota expired on January 31st.
Joining the group was a local pastor and workers from other unions, including Kelsie Anderson, the Vice President of OPEIU Local 12 and 3-year HealthPartners employee. Anderson spoke about how the nearly 1,200 OPEIU members at HealthPartners are allowed and will be encouraged to honor any picket lines, a right they have won in their own union contract.
“We at OPEIU Local 12 love our caregivers and colleagues at HealthPartners. We are encouraging our members to honor the picket line and not cross.” This solidarity from OPEIU Local 12 members will bring the total number of workers not showing up for work February 19-25 at HealthPartners to over 3,000, if no agreement on a new contract is reached between HealthPartners and SEIU Healthcare Minnesota members.
SEIU Healthcare Minnesota represents healthcare and long term care workers in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and home care across Minnesota