How would the decision to strike be made?
Any decision to strike would be made by SEIU Healthcare Minnesota Members at our hospital, by a majority vote. Each member can vote on whether or not to authorize a strike. The majority of those who vote will decide.
How long would we be on strike?
The length of strike authorization will be on the ballot and determined by SEIU members when voting. There are strikes that last one day, strikes that last ten days, and strikes that are open-ended (with no end-date set). The bargaining team would recommend a strike length and all members will vote on whether or not to approve that recommendation.
Why would anyone want to go on strike?
No one is advocating for a strike because they want to strike. A strike would be a hardship for all of us. But striking is a very powerful tool – the most powerful tool unions can use either to win new benefits and standards, or to defend benefits and standards already won.
What about our patients?
We know that our dedication and care for patients is what makes us great at our work. We also know that this quality of care will not continue if frontline staff are not valued. Not only are we fighting for each other, we are protecting the highest quality care for our patients now and into the future. For all healthcare workers, federal law requires the filing of a 10-day notice before striking (this is not required for other types of workers), in order to give patients enough advance notice to be able to make alternative arrangements for their care.
Can I get fired or be permanently replaced?
No. For any ULP (Unfair Labor Practice) strike, it is illegal for an employer to fire or permanently replace striking workers. It is also illegal for employers to retaliate against us in any way for strike participation. Employers are only allowed to hire permanent replacements in the event of an economic strike and they are required to give advanced notice to workers beforehand.
How does the strike fund work?
SEIU Healthcare Minnesota’s Strike Fund has been built from the dues payments of the union’s members in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and home care all across the state. All decisions about the use of the strike fund — whether it can be used for a particular contract fight, for what purpose, at what cost, and for how long — are made by our SEIU Healthcare Minnesota Executive Board: a group of 45 member-leaders from across the union elected every three years. Our union’s Executive Board usually authorizes using the strike fund to provide a modest daily strike benefit for actively picketing members. Our Board makes different decisions depending on what’s at stake for the members, the strength of the membership group in supporting a strike, and other factors. The purpose of strike pay is not replacement of all lost wages, but to help members get through the hardship of being on strike. Only actively picketing members are eligible to receive strike pay – if a member does not show up, or shows up but do not stay on the picket line for their strike-shift, they will not receive strike pay. (If a member is physically unable to walk the picket line, alternative picket-line duty can be arranged.)
Will I get paid during a strike? How much?
On February 18, 2021 the SEIU Executive Board voted to authorize the use of the strike fund to pay $50 or two hours of pay whichever is higher for all active picketers. If members vote to strike, SEIU members who picket can receive this stipend for the length of the strike.
Would a strike impact our current healthcare?
Our health benefits are paid each calendar month. If we go out on a ULP (Unfair Labor Practices) strike with a defined duration, our benefits will be covered during that period (we won’t schedule it for a time that includes dates in two different months). If we go out on an open-ended strike, we will aim to start it close to the beginning of a calendar month.
Can Allina lock us out?
Employers in the past have locked SEIU members out, which means not allowing them to return to work immediately after a strike. Mayo Clinic in Albert Lea, for example, locked SEIU members out for four days following a one-day strike. If Allina were to lock us out, we would be eligible for unemployment benefits. Also, Allina is self-insured for unemployment, so they would have to pay the cost of our unemployment, pay replacement workers, and continue to try to operate the hospital without us. For these reasons, we think it is unlikely that Allina will lock us out. When the Allina Techs at Abbott and St. Francis went out on strike for two days this past October, Allina did not lock them out and they returned to work immediately after the strike.
What happens if I cross the picket line?
If every single SEIU HCMN at Allina member walks out and refuses to cross the picket line, what do you think will happen? Will the hospital be able to function? If we choose not to strike, we are telling our coworkers that we do not support them, and we are telling Allina that they are free to take concessions from us and our coworkers.
My supervisor says I can’t strike/shouldn’t strike/can’t talk about the union/can’t wear union buttons/etc.
It is a violation of labor law – technically called an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) – for management to interfere with our rights to organize for better pay, benefits and respect with our coworkers. Any time a manager violates these protections, we should document the date, time, place, and who said what to whom, and send that information via email to our Internal Organizer. Our supervisor has no right to restrain or otherwise interfere with our right to engage in protected concerted activity, such as participating in a strike, or to retaliate against us for exercising our legal rights. They also normally have no right to stop us from wearing union buttons, stickers, or clothing. When it comes to conversations about the union, a good approach in general is to ask yourself “Would it be okay for me to talk about the Vikings right now?” (or any other non-work topic). If a members is in a patient-care situation where it would be inappropriate to talk about the Vikings, that’s a situation where we also shouldn’t talk about union matters. If it would be fine to be talking with coworkers about the Vikings, it would ordinarily also be fine to be talking about union matters.
If only a small majority votes to authorize a ULP strike, will we really go ahead with it?
What sort of message will it send to Allina management if, for example, 54% of members voted to authorize a strike? This is not the message that will be needed to fight back the employer’s concessions. We will need all members to stand united to maintain our current benefits and standards and continue to improve our workplace. Under circumstances where there’s a slight majority voting Yes but not overwhelming support from the membership, it would not be wise for the bargaining team to reconsider recommending a strike.