Members of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota at Cerenity Humboldt Care Center in St. Paul voted to authorize a Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) strike after months of bargaining and employer refusing to workers’ pay and benefit demands during COVID-19 pandemic
SAINT PAUL — Healthcare workers employed by Cerenity Humboldt Care Center in St. Paul have voted to authorize a 24-hour ULP strike starting at 7 a.m. on July 20th as talks have broken down for a new contract. Despite employees working around the clock to keep residents and staff safe, management continues to push for proposals that not only don’t respect the essential work being done by workers, but actually in some cases would move people backwards.
A majority of members voted to reject the employer’s proposals and hold a 24-hour strike on July 20th starting at 7 a.m.. There are currently no bargaining dates set between now and July 20th. SEIU Healthcare Minnesota represents 85 healthcare workers who do work as Cooks, Housekeepers, Janitors, Nursing Assistants, Laundry Aides, Dietary Aides, and Restorative Aides.
The two sides bargained 7 times over six months and remain divided on key issues like:
Healthcare workers demand for 5.25% pay increase to respect this critical work (workers currently start under $15 per hour)
Protecting sick pay for healthcare workers on the front line of a pandemic (employer proposal to roll back sick pay)
Respecting long-term employees (union proposes workers with over 30+ years experience not having to work weekends)
Stopping employer plan to restrict leaves of absences
Rhonda Little, who has been a cook at Cerenity for over 5 years and is a member of the SEIU Healthcare MN negotiating team, shared why she voted to strike.
“We’ve been bargaining for six months and management just doesn’t seem to want to negotiate. During this pandemic we’ve kept COVID away from our patients and it is time our facility steps up to respect our work. We only can put up with so much. We have lost so many employees because of turnover but they don’t want to give us a fair raise and they are talking about taking away paid sick time,” said Little. “My department lost 17 people in the last year, many because our pay is some of the lowest around for our work. St. Paul minimum wage is going up towards $15 and people starting here don’t even make $15. Enough is enough. We want them to realize that we are tired of not being taken seriously. By going on strike, we are standing together and standing up for ourselves.”
The strike will come on a national “Strike for Black Lives” day of action that will see action in over 25 cities from the essential workers – including fast-food, hospital, airport and nursing home workers – who are putting their lives on the line every single day during a global pandemic. These workers are risking it all without being provided enough PPE, sick days or other protections, many for less than $15/hr. Workers are standing up because they have to report to work even as they watch co-workers get sick, terrified they’ll bring the virus home to their families, because they can’t miss a paycheck.
The day will see working people from all backgrounds — Black and white, Latino and Asian, First Nations and immigrants — coming together to demand justice and make this a place where all of us have our rights respected.
In Minnesota the nursing home workers will join together with airport workers at MSP who are fighting for a $15 minimum wage at MSP. The Cerenity members will hold a rally at the picket line (public sidewalk outside 514 Humboldt Ave, Saint Paul) at 10 a.m. before joining a car caravan to MSP, highlighting workers in different sectors joining together in the fight for economic and racial justice. A formal advisory with exact time and location for the two events will be sent out in the coming days.
SEIU Healthcare Minnesota represents over 40,000 healthcare and long term care workers in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and home care across Minnesota