Union Members Begin Strike Preparation
(Saint Paul, MN) – Talks stalled between HealthPartners and the 1,800 employees who are members of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota. Following a strike vote that saw 95% support for a 7-day ULP strike, SEIU Healthcare Minnesota members at HealthPartners returned to the table twice this week, including Friday for over 11 hours. Despite SEIU members’ willingness to reach a fair deal, HealthPartners lawyers and management refused to move off their demands to roll back healthcare coverage for the 1,800 frontline healthcare workers and their families.
The union members are now working to prepare for their 7-day ULP strike scheduled to start the morning of Wednesday, February 19th. The members will hold a sign-making session Tuesday night at Awaken West 7th Church in St. Paul, ahead of the walkout that is scheduled to begin Wednesday morning. (Formal advisory on Tuesday sign-making event to come.)
Cindy Sutherlund, a 20-year LPN at HealthPartners and member of the SEIU Healthcare Minnesota bargaining team, shared the frustration members felt after management refused to budge:
“If HealthPartners doesn’t take care of their employees, how can we take care of our patients? We are the frontline caregivers who make sure our communities are healthy, but they are trying to roll back our healthcare,” said Sutherlund. “We don’t want to be forced to strike, but we know that if we go backwards on healthcare coverage now we will never get it back in the future, which will hurt employees, our families and our patients. We’re ready to strike if HealthPartners won’t take their healthcare cuts off the table.”
Nancy Wickoren, a 31-year LPN and member of the bargaining team, talked about how the Union was working to reach a deal.
“We came to bargaining this week open to make changes to get this deal done, but management are not willing to reach a fair deal. It makes me angry and sad. We want to be able to give good care and remain healthy,” said Wickoren. “I am not doing this for myself, but for the frontline caregivers behind us. I didn’t realize how strong the younger people are in standing up for good care. I want to leave the next generation of caregivers in a place where they can continue giving world-class care for Minnesota families. We are united and ready to do whatever it takes to make sure we stand up for Minnesota families.”
The 1,800 workers in the bargaining unit represent nearly all caregivers other than doctors, including physicians assistants, midwives, RNs, dental hygienists, LPNs, CMAs, lab techs 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 strike vote was held on February 6th for 15 hours at five locations across the Twin Cities. The contract between HealthPartners and SEIU Healthcare Minnesota expired on January 31st.
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.
SEIU Healthcare Minnesota represents healthcare and long term care workers in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and home care across Minnesota