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After Tumultuous End to Legislative Session, Home Care Workers Celebrate Ratification of New Agreement – And Resolve to Fight for Full Funding to be Restored

New union contract raises pay floor, increases paid time off, grants holiday pay for the first time, funds training, and more, to help address care crisis facing seniors and people with disabilities across Minnesota

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Care workers and clients express frustration at anti-union group who attacked care workers, leading to a cut of half of the desperately needed funding, vow to continue fight to solve the state’s care crisis

Saint Paul — Home care workers and the state of Minnesota reached a new agreement for a union contract that covers approximately 27,000 Minnesota home care workers, with union members ratifying the contract Monday evening after a week of voting. The new contract will go into effect on July 1st.  The two sides had to negotiate a new contract after elected officials cut funding in half for the previous tentative agreement in the final Health and Human Services (HHS) Omnibus budget bill that was passed by the State House and Senate and signed into law by Governor Dayton late last month.

2015 Scott_VivianThe decrease in funding, which will slow the work being done to address the care crisis facing seniors and people with disabilities across Minnesota, came after repeated attacks on care workers and their clients from anti-union attorney Doug Seaton and the Center of the American Experiment. In legislative testimony, these groups – which have run a large-scale campaign since last summer to stop the union from negotiating a new agreement – advocated that legislators vote down raises and new benefits for home care workers. In expressing their anger at the reduction in funding that came as a result of these anti-union groups’ attacks, home care workers vowed to continue their fight next session, to restore funding to address the care crisis in Minnesota.

“So many good people all across the state worked hard pushing our elected officials to address the care crisis that is harming thousands of families like mine. Home care workers and clients like me negotiated in good faith earlier this year, but at the very end of the legislative session politicians decided to only fund half of what we had agreed to with the state, which is incredibly frustrating,” said Jim Carlisle, a home care client who counts on care for himself and his wife to be able to stay in their home. “We made some important steps forward in this new agreement, but the crisis in our state is well beyond the point where any half-measures will suffice.”

“This is, without exaggeration, a life or death situation for someone like me who relies on quality caregivers to get out of bed and do basic tasks like eating and leaving my house,” Carlisle continued.  “I’m proud we won the gains we did, but we are still a long way from where we need to be. What we’ve proven over the last few months is that we won’t let any attacks or setbacks stop us. We will fight to ensure every person who needs care has access to quality caregivers.”

Despite the challenges of fighting frivolous lawsuits and attacks from deep-pocketed special interest groups, union members expressed pride in the tireless effort put forward by people across the state to bring attention to the care crisis.

“Progress simply would not have happened without our union. We are so happy that we have a collective voice in this critical fight,” said Yasmine Soud Reynolds, a home care worker from White Bear Lake. “By coming together as home care workers, family members and clients from across the state, we have made it clear to everyone that we will be invisible no more. Because we worked together and told our stories, we had a group of legislators from both political parties author the bills to ratify and fund the original agreement we reached with the state in January. When some union-busting lawyers tried to block that bipartisan support for the wage and benefit improvements we so desperately need, the only reason we were able to resist their efforts and still make progress through this new agreement is that we stayed united. They were able to get elected officials to reduce the funding, but they weren’t able to stop us from moving forward.  We’ll be back next session to keep pushing for our state to address the care crisis, starting with restoring the funding lawmakers just cut.”

With the funding cut in half, the union’s bargaining team of workers, parents and clients had to go back to the bargaining table and reach a new agreement with the state, after engaging thousands of members in a difficult discussion of how to balance priorities. The new agreement was ratified after a week of voting that ended Monday evening.

Provisions of the new contract include:

  • A $1 an hour increase to the minimum wage for home care workers (the new floor is $12)
  • Time-and-a-half pay for workers who take care of their clients on five holidays, a benefit no home care workers in the state have had before
  • An increase in the amount of Paid Time Off home care workers earn
  • Training stipends for 5,000 workers who take voluntary trainings to build their skills in order to provide higher quality care
  • An online matching registry to help address the struggle clients face when trying to find quality care workers to bring into their homes
  • A 5% additional increase for those who work for the highest-need clients (defined as those who qualify for 12 or more hours per day of in-home care)

While proud of the gains, Delores Flynn, whose 46-year-old son Scott needs full time care after suffering a major brain hemorrhage, vowed that families will be back next session to demand that the funding lawmakers cut be restored

We will continue to fight until every Minnesotan who needs care has access to the quality care they need to stay in their home. We expect politicians to do right by restoring the funding they cut,” said Flynn, who lives in Roseville. “There is a crisis happening across our state. If this crisis hasn’t touched you or someone you love yet, it will. When it does, you will realize that this isn’t an issue we can ignore. With the coming wave of baby boomers who will want quality care to stay in their homes, this crisis is only going to grow if it is not truly addressed. Care work should not be a political issue, but it is frustrating that money desperately needed by our families was caught up in political games. We cannot risk having people with disabilities and seniors go without the care they need due to the chronic shortage of workers. It is far more expensive to care for people in a facility than it is providing care for them in their homes. Elected officials from all parties should make restoring the home care funding they cut the very first bill they pass when they come back to St. Paul.”

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SEIU Healthcare Minnesota unites more than 35,000 healthcare and long-term care workers in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and home care throughout the state of Minnesota.

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Union Files Formal Complaint on Mayo Outsourcing Plan, Highlight Apparent Conflict of Interest by Executive

Call for full public investigation and reversal of outsourcing decision

Rochester, Minn — SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, the union that represents many of the food service workers that Mayo wants to outsource to a multi-national corporation, filed a formal complaint Monday regarding an apparent conflict of interest that was not disclosed when Mayo announced the plan on June 30th. The formal complaint, called a “grievance,” was filed with Mayo on Monday, August 1st.

The Union is prepared to file charges with the National Labor Relations Board if Mayo executives attempt to cover up or withhold any information about this apparent violation.

The grievance alleges the decision was “primarily influenced by food services administrator Carol Gorman. The Union believes Carol Gorman has a conflict of interest due to a long standing personal relationship with a Morrison executive.” The grievance is based on Mayo’s conflict of interest policy from its employee handbook.

SEIU Healthcare Minnesota President Jamie Gulley shared the indignation felt by many when this news came to light.

“We are angered that Mayo would make a decision like this, one that affects the lives of 700 families in our community, especially now that it appears the decision was made under a cloud of dubious ethics,” said Gulley. “We believe Mayo executives are already aware of the apparent conflict of interest and we are demanding that Mayo make public any initial findings from their investigation immediately. We are calling for Ms. Gorman to be relieved of her duties pending a full investigation and for the decision to outsource workers be revisited in light of this debacle for Mayo.”

The tentative agreement between Mayo and Morrison, which has not been finalized, has been met with anger and frustration from workers across Mayo and community members across Southern Minnesota. Their plan to push hundreds of loyal Mayo employees – and Rochester taxpayers — out of the company comes shortly after Mayo lobbied the state for hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to build the Destination Medical Center (DMC), in no small part by claiming it will bring good jobs to the area.

Hundreds of workers throughout the Mayo system have been wearing “No Subcontracting” buttons at work, and a recent full-page ad in the Rochester Post-Bulletin highlighted that the food service workers who Mayo is trying to kick off their payroll have over 5,000 years of experience in food service at Mayo, with many bringing decades of food safety expertise to their jobs. This longevity, which most doubt would be possible if the lower pay and worse health benefits of a subcontractor were brought into the hospital, helps to ensure the health and safety of patients across the Mayo system.

Food service workers, their union, and community members concerned with this plan continue to push Mayo to reconsider their decision and do what is best for patients, workers and the whole community.

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SEIU Healthcare Minnesota unites more than 35,000 healthcare and long-term care workers in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and home care throughout the state of Minnesota.

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Albert Lea Hospital Workers Hold Informational Picket Outside of Hospital In Response to Contract Negotiations

albert leaAlbert Lea, MN – Today, outside of the Mayo Clinic Health System Albert Lea Hospital, maintenance workers and community supporters held an informational picket to highlight proposals brought forward by Mayo during contract negotiations that could harm workers, the hospital and the community. The workers, who are members of the SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, highlighted their concerns on the public sidewalk outside of the hospital as they continue their attempts to reach a fair contract agreement.

Workers at the picket included Kavin Dressen, the chief engineer who has worked at the hospital since 1989, who highlighted what changes proposed by the hospital would mean for both workers and the community.

“’We do incredibly important work to ensure our hospital stays up and running  so families in our community can get the care they deserve. I’m afraid if we don’t fight back as a community against the hospital’s proposal to take away the voice of longtime community members who work at our hospital, it will mean that in the future this will no longer be a “career” job that supports a family and allows someone to make Albert Lea their home. Having a safe, well-run hospital is important to patients, and having decent jobs in our community is important to everyone in and around Albert Lea. We should be fighting for more jobs that reward hard work, not proposing language that could lead to a race to the bottom,” said Dressen. “We are ready to sit down at the bargaining table and reach an agreement with the hospital so we can continue to provide the service needed to make our hospital great. Unfortunately, Mayo executives wants to impose a plan on Albert Lea that will hurt dedicated employees, and the results from their proposals could hurt those who visit our hospital and hurt our community.

“We are out here today on this informational picket because we can’t let that happen,” said Dressen.

The maintenance workers at Mayo Clinic Health System Albert Lea Hospital are the first unit of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota members to bargain this round with Mayo, and they have already had six bargaining sessions over the last three months. Many points of agreement have been reached, but workers expressed dismay over proposed language that takes away the voice of longtime workers.

Also joining the picket was Henry Tews, a maintenance engineer who has worked at the hospital for 26 years.

“The experience we bring in keeping our hospital up and running allows for families in our community to receive the kind of care that they deserve. It is no coincidence that many of us have been working here for multiple decades and have deep roots in our community, things that help us do our job at a high level. The proposals that Mayo is bringing to the table, weakening the rights of the people who make their hospitals run, would move our hospital and our communities in the wrong direction,” said Tews, a father of five. “We know that if we let decision-makers at Mayo start eroding the quality of maintenance jobs, other hospital workers are next. The experience that helps us ensure a safe and well-run hospital is a direct result of the stability that comes from the gains we have won as a Union, things that Mayo are now trying to take away.”

“Albert Lea deserves a well-run hospital and decent jobs that make sure our hospital and community can prosper, Tews continued. “We are out here today on this informational picket to let everyone know that our contract isn’t just about us, it is about the future of our hospital. We can choose fairness that keeps our hospital and our communities strong, or we can choose a profit-driven race to the bottom that risks moving Albert Lea Hospital backwards for workers, and in turn for the patients and our community.”

The next bargaining session will be on Monday, November 23rd, and workers and supporters expressed hope that the hospital will work to reach an agreement on a contract that ensures that workers, patients and the Albert Lea community are shown the value that they deserve.

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SEIU Healthcare Minnesota unites more than 42,000 healthcare and long-term care workers in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and home care throughout the state of Minnesota. SEIU represents more than 60,000 members across Minnesota and is a powerful voice working to improve the lives of all Minnesotans.

 

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Allina Hospital Workers Approve New Contract That Establishes $15 Minimum Wage at Twin Cities Hospitals

3,000 healthcare workers at eight Allina hospitals ratify new 3-year deal with a landmark increase to $15 an hour minimum wage at metro hospitals, advances pay equity at non-metro hospitals and addresses health and safety for workers

As thousands of low-wage workers and allies demonstrate this week for a $15 per hour minimum wage, SEIU Healthcare Minnesota members at Allina Hospitals ratified a new three-year contract that establishes a $15 per hour minimum wage for the first time for workers at seven hospitals across the Twin Cities region, including in Shakopee and Buffalo.

“At a time when more and more jobs are low-wage jobs that cannot even begin to support a family, our new contract shows that a $15 per hour minimum wage is possible because we achieved it for all of our members at seven hospitals,” said Paula Lindquist, a Scheduling Coordinator at Buffalo Hospital. “We are an example of the power of workers coming together to improve wages, benefits, quality of services and the future of our communities.”

“For Lab Assistants like me, this is our first union contract and I will see a $5 per hour raise to more than $15 per hour, and better benefits,” said Tigist Tefera of Abbott-Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, whose job classification joined SEIU Healthcare Minnesota last year. “This will mean a better life for us and our families, and all workers deserve the same.”

The contract provides employment security protections as well as additional health and safety protections for workers. It includes a wage increase in every year of the contract for all members, an increase in Allina’s contribution towards the members’ pension plan, and a 25% increase in the amount of tuition reimbursement available to all members annually.

The new agreement also takes a significant step towards equal pay for equal work for workers at Allina hospitals outside the metro region. “We provide the same excellent quality care and service to our patients in Owatonna as our fellow union members do in Minneapolis and Saint Paul,” said Deb Dodds, an Environmental Services Aide at Owatonna Hospital, “so I am glad to see that we are closing the pay equity gap for hospital workers outside the metro area, but we have more progress to make.”

Coming on the heels of a new contract for 3,000 hospital workers at eight other Twin Cities hospitals – including Children’s Hospitals and Clinics, Fairview Health Services, HealthEast Care System, North Memorial Health Care, and Park Nicollet Health Services (recently merged into HealthPartners) – over 99.5% of the workers in 16 hospitals covered by these contracts will have a $15 per hour minimum compensation.

“This contract is a step forward for every union member, but there is a lot more that we need to do to improve patient care in our hospitals,” said Vivian Straumann, a Licensed Practical Nurse at United Hospital in Saint Paul. “We will not stop raising the issue of staffing levels until we are satisfied that we have the right number of people to keep ourselves, our patients and our hospitals safe. Staffing levels are directly linked to our patient’s health and our ability as frontline workers to deliver the highest quality of care possible. ”

Over 3,000 Allina hospital workers, including Nursing Assistants; Environmental Services staff; Cooks and Dietary staff; Licensed Practical Nurses; X-Ray, Surgical, and Sterile Processing Technicians; and many others were working without a new contract after their last agreement expired on March 1. They work at eight Allina hospitals, including Abbott-Northwestern, Buffalo, Mercy, Owatonna, St. Francis, United, Unity, and Phillips Eye Institute.

 

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Hundreds of Members Picket at Allina Abbott Northwestern

Members and supporters hold informational picket at Abbott Northwestern in Minneapolis to highlight need for safer staffing levels, other health and safety measures

Minneapolis — Over 500 SEIU Healthcare Minnesota members employed by Allina Health held an informational picket outside of Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis on Wednesday to highlight the need for safer staffing levels and other health and safety measures after drastic cuts made by Allina in recent years have led to over a thousand staffing emergencies in recent years.

 

“Allina has cut staff at every hospital in the last three years, but we are still working the same or more hours and it means we are constantly understaffed,” said Kalsang Dickey, a Nursing Assistant at the Mother Baby Center at Abbott-Northwestern Hospital. “Every night, I have up to 48 patients and only one of me, and it means I have less time to spend with each patient. That puts patient safety at risk when calls go unanswered for too long,” continued Dickey.

 

Allina defines a staffing emergency as any time in which staff work over 120 hours in a two-week pay period, and that has occurred nearly 1,200 times in the last two years, with hundreds of thousands of hours of overtime and other unplanned hours across eight hospitals.

 

“Allina could add hundreds of full-time positions just to fill the extra hours we’re all working,” said Dawn Akkaya, who has worked at Abbott-Northwestern Hospital for sixteen years as a Nursing Assistant and Patient Assistant Coordinator.

 

Workers and supporters, including members of the Minnesota Nurses Association at Allina hospitals, also informed the public about the demand by Allina executives to be able to subcontract hospital jobs and what that would mean for workers and the patients for whom they provide care.

 

“If Allina executives subcontract hospital jobs like Dietary and Environmental Services to the lowest bidder, I think there will be higher turnover, less training, lower standards, and all of that will harm patient care,” continued Akkaya. “We want to work with Allina to invest in our healthcare workforce, not drive a race to the bottom.”

 

Over 3,000 Allina hospital workers, including Nursing Assistants; Environmental Services staff; Cooks and Dietary staff; Licensed Practical Nurses; X-Ray, Surgical, and Sterile Processing Technicians; and many others are working without a new contract after their last agreement expired on March 1. Allina Health hospital workers are calling on the non-profit health system to work with them on important issues like the health and safety of patients and workers. Despite negotiating for months, Allina executives continue to demand changes that will hurt workers and make it harder to provide the outstanding care that Minnesota families deserve.

 

“We are committed to reaching a fair settlement on a new contract that moves forward on critical issues like workplace health and safety and opportunities for advancement,” said Pam Bundy, a Holter Monitor Tech at Abbott-Northwestern Hospital. “We hope that Allina executives will work with us on these issues and drop their demands to be able to subcontract our jobs to the lowest bidder and eliminate the 8-hour work day, which would negatively impact patient care.”

 

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SEIU Healthcare Minnesota represents over 43,000 healthcare and long term care workers in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and home care across Minnesota.

www.seiuhcmn.org

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Workers Praise Senate Passage of Women’s Economic Security Act

Saint Paul, Minn ­– SEIU members praised the Minnesota Senate’s passage of the Women’s Economic Security Act Wednesday, highlighting the positive benefits for women and all working families in Minnesota. A majority of SEIU members in the state of Minnesota are women, and workers recognized this bill as an important step, highlighting work to close the gender pay gap, protect women from discrimination in the workplace, and help improve retirement security for workers across our state.

“Through my work with students and families in our public schools, I know that giving women a fair shot in the workplace can help strengthen working families in our state. I am glad to see the Minnesota Senate taking a step to address this today by passing the Women’s Economic Security Act,” said Valerie Rolstad, a member of SEIU Local 284 who lives in Fridley. “Things like equal pay, protection from discrimination, and a chance for retirement security should not be things women have to struggle to achieve.”

“Women in the healthcare field know the work we do should be treated equally, and we’ve fought through our union for many of these same measures. I am glad to see the Women’s Economic Security Bill passed to begin the process to level the playing field for women­ and all workers ­ in Minnesota,” said Crissy Hanson, a Scrub Tech from Brainerd and a member of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota. “When women in Minnesota are given a fair shot, it will help to rebuild a strong middle class where all Minnesota families can succeed.”

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SEIU is the workers who provide care and support for your family in hospitals, nursing homes, their own homes, schools, and the Twin Cities’ largest public and private buildings. The SEIU Minnesota State Council coordinates the electoral, legislative and outreach work of the SEIU Locals in Minnesota to increase the effectiveness of their collective bargaining and new member organizing campaigns. By building the political involvement of approximately 30,000 SEIU members throughout the state, the State Council is working to improve the lives of all Minnesotans. The State Council’s board is comprised of elected leaders, members, and staff of the four SEIU Local Unions in Minnesota.

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Healthcare Workers Express Confidence in New MNsure CEO and Gratitude for Contributions of Outgoing Director April Todd-Malmlov

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 18, 2013
Contact: Phillip Cryan, 651-269-4821

SAINT PAUL, MN – Members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare Minnesota expressed confidence in new interim MNsure Chief Executive Officer, Scott Leitz.

“Scott brings valuable leadership skills to MNsure as well as extensive knowledge of MNsure and demonstrated success in management,” said Jamie Gulley, president of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota. “He’s a good choice to help MNsure navigate the transition period.”

Leitz brings to the position more that 16 years of high-level operational experience managing large and complex programs and projects, and he led DHS’s coordination with MNsure on the enrollment of more than 700,000 people in public healthcare programs. He also has a track record of successful collaboration with consumer groups and other public organizations, and a proven commitment to ensuring that state programs truly serve the public interest.

Outgoing Director Todd-Malmlov had been the top executive at MNsure since its creation in 2011.  “Minnesota has one of the best-functioning exchanges in the country, which is largely due to April’s expertise and leadership over the last two years,” said Philip Cryan, SEIU Healthcare Minnesota Director Of Organizing. “But MNsure needs to do better and will benefit from new leadership and vision.”

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SEIU Healthcare Minnesota unites 15,000 hospital, clinic, nursing home, and homecare workers in Minnesota’s acute and long term care industries. Our union is dedicated to ensuring quality, affordable healthcare for every American and improving the lives of all of Minnesota’s working families.

 

 

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SEIU Healthcare Minnesota Celebrates 80 Years of History, Looks to the Future for Healthcare Workers in Minnesota

On Friday, September 20th healthcare workers from across Minnesota came together to celebrate 80 years of improving people’s lives, while welcoming in a new wave of workers. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare Minnesota celebrated its 80th anniversary, bringing in leaders from across the state and country to honor the oldest healthcare union in America.

“Eighty years ago, the people who cleaned the hospitals, mended the linens and cared for patients were mostly women and people of color – the work they did was not seen as real work. When Congress passed the National Labor Relations Act in the 1930s, they left these workers out of the law,” said Jamie Gulley, President of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota.

“But eighty years ago, something special happened here in the Twin Cities. These workers – women, many of them women of color – joined together to fight against low pay, lack of benefits, and most of all, the lack of respect that accompanied their work. They formed a union and won voluntary recognition to create the first healthcare workers’ union in America,” continued Gulley.

Mary Kay Henry, the International President of SEIU, joined in the celebration. Henry, the first woman elected to lead SEIU, began her career as a union organizer with SEIU Healthcare Minnesota.

During her visit, Henry welcomed the personal care attendants (PCAs) and other home care workers who participated in the union assembly as they prepare to launch their organizing drive to form a union with SEIU Healthcare Minnesota later this fall.

“For too long this vital occupation, upon which the health and independence of millions depend, has been treated as marginal and casual work to be performed under poverty conditions,” said Henry. “This has been so, even as the occupation has become among the fastest growing and most vitally important within the American health care system.

“I welcome these workers’ efforts to make home care jobs into the good quality jobs that we need to get our economy moving again and to ensure that all Americans have access to the quality care they deserve.”

Home care workers spent part of the day laying out their vision for their union, which they shared during a brief press conference.

“The PCA program is a blessing when it works. But in my years as a PCA, I see that most of the time it’s not working very well because of the high turnover and the lack of training opportunities. I have met and talked with many other PCAs— the problems are affecting all of us,” said Shaquonica Johnson, a home care worker from St. Paul. “I want a union so that if my family ever needs to rely on a PCA in the future, there will be a lot of good, well trained, reliable people to draw from.”

“Through our union, we are going to make sure that our work is respected,” said Jane Conrad, a home care worker from Richmond. “We provide direct support services so people can stay in their homes, but we also need to earn a respectable wage so we can afford our homes.”

“I’ve worked hard as a disability advocate to ensure that everyone who needs self-directed support services has access to them,” said Nikki Villavicencio, a recipient of home care services. “But no matter how hard we fight, our services will always be in danger as long as our PCAs are expected to work for low wages with no benefits, little access to training and no voice to change those things. If my workers have a better quality of life, my family and I have a better quality of life.”

Dozens of PCAs and other direct support workers said they are continuing to talk with other workers across the state as they prepare to launch their statewide organizing drive later this fall. Self-directed home care workers in public programs recently won the right to form a union under state law.

“We are proud of the history we have of being leaders in the healthcare industry,” said Gulley. “Today, that history continues with the thousands of home care workers around the state who are working to form a union. Home care workers provide care for our seniors and people with disabilities. Yet today they have the same struggles the hospital workers who founded our unions faced 80 years ago – low pay, lack of benefits and lack of respect. We look forward to their inclusion in our great tradition of improving people’s lives.”

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SEIU Healthcare Minnesota unites more than 15,000 healthcare and long-term care workers in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and home care throughout the state of Minnesota. SEIU represents more than 30,000 members across Minnesota and is a powerful voice working to improve the lives of all Minnesotans.

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Minnesota Commemorates 50th Anniversary of March On Washington

St. Paul, Minn. – As the sun beat down on the Minnesota State Capitol on Wednesday, nearly 200 Minnesotans raised their voices in song, prayer and celebration, just as thousands did at the March on Washington this same day in 1963.

“Fifty years ago, men and women of every race, creed and religion gathered on our National Mall to declare that the scourge of discrimination could not overpower a nation dedicated to equality and freedom,” said Rep. Keith Ellison. “They asked our country to keep the promises made in the Constitution. The problems we face today may seem different, but we are fighting for the same goal: equality for all. The bravery shown by those who came before us fuels our drive towards progress and for that we thank each and every one of them.”

U.S. Representative Keith Ellison addressed the crowd gathered at the South Mall of the Minnesota State Capitol, following a mile-long march from Boyd Park in St. Paul. Rep. Ellison spoke about the need to increase the minimum wage as a way to address disparities in wages across the country. The minimum wage, adjusted for inflation, was $9.45 in 1963. Today, it’s $7.25 nationally and $6.15 in Minnesota.

It was one of many issues addressed at Wednesday’s commemoration, which was organized by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) African-American caucus, the AFRAM Minnesota Chapter. All across the country, citizens celebrated the 50th anniversary of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic civil rights march. In Minnesota, social and economic justice groups including the St. Paul NAACP joined SEIU-AFRAM and Rep. Ellison to continue the fight for jobs, freedom and justice.

“There are still many obstacles we need to overcome to realize Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision of a more just society,” said Tee McClenty, Executive Vice President of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota and member of SEIU AFRAM. “There are racial disparities in education, employment, and wages. We need a just system that protects all of its citizens.”

“Faced with a broken immigration system that tears apart families and allows employers to abuse and exploit workers, we, as a country, still have a long way to go to achieve the vision of a more equal society,” said Abraham Kone, SEIU Local 26 member. “America has a chance to honor the lessons of the civil rights movement by passing true, commonsense immigration reform that will allow millions of aspiring Americans to walk the path to citizenship and become full members of our democracy. Congress must act now because without reform, millions of immigrants will be relegated to a permanent underclass.”

“The March we honor today was a major event as our nation seeks to navigate the stormy seas of racism to land on the shores of justice,” said Carol Nieters, SEIU Local 284 Executive Director. “The legacy of the march on Washington was to give us the moral compass we need for this journey. We are not there yet. At SEIU, our mission is to ‘improve people’s lives and lead the way to a more just society.’ The role of the labor movement must be to help chart the way through waters still roiled by the injustice of great wealth in the hands of the few and great struggle in the lives of the many. For if we do not have a just economy, we do not have justice.”

The program included speeches, prayer and song, in addition to the reading of the historic “I Have A Dream” speech by 11-year-old Cherrish Maxon.

Check out photos here!

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Hundreds of Workers Go On Strike at St. Paul Laundry Facility for Hospital Linens

Worker’s United Linen Co-op Workers hit the picket line in a strike over unfair labor practices

St. Paul, Minn. — Just moments ago, more than 240 members of Worker’s United Local 150 walked off the job from Health Systems Cooperative Laundries to walk the picket line in a strike over unfair labor practices, which include the company’s unilateral discontinuation of sick-day benefits. Workers poured out of the building starting at 1:00 p.m. today, completely shutting down operations at the commercial laundry facility.

Union members nearly unanimously voted down the company’s “last, best and final offer” on July 26th. Since then, Worker’s United – along with other labor organizations such as SEIU Healthcare Minnesota and area labor federations and councils – have been urging hospitals, clinics, doctors and the Board of Directors that oversees the operation of the laundry to restore the benefits and drop oppressive and unnecessary demands.

Negotiations resumed between the Union and the Laundry this morning at the offices of Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services in Minneapolis, but at this point have been unsuccessful. Local 150 Union members at the St. Paul laundry are primarily immigrants, working in conditions that often include temperatures inside the building in excess of 100 degrees. They have walked the picket lines twice this summer during contract negotiations to protest the Company’s unfair labor practices. Worker say money is not the issue, but rather protecting workplace rights, which they have had in their labor agreement for many years, including the sick-day benefit the company unilaterally discontinued in April.

Workers at Health Systems Cooperative Laundries provide linens to nearly every hospital in the Twin Cities. The linens are typically used the day they are laundered, delivered to hospitals in carts specially set up for distinct uses. It is unclear where the hospitals will obtain linen service, but it will likely be at a much higher cost and without assurance that they will receive the same service that the striking workers provide.

“Going on strike is not something we want to do. We want to provide linens for the hospitals so healthcare workers and medical staff can continue caring for patients with the quality linens they are used to,” said Anita Beachler, a member of the Union’s negotiating committee, who has worked in the laundry for over thirty years. “The company already took our sick-day benefits, and the contract they proposed would strip us of important leave of absence language, limit our bargaining rights over mid-term changes imposed by the Employer and give us no protection should they sell the business to a new owner.

“The work we do is extremely valuable.  Hopefully our bosses will understand that we deserve to be treated with respect, and that they need to give back our sick days and move off their anti-worker proposals in order to avoid a strike,” continued Beachler.

There is no indication as to how long a strike could last.

Members of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota are supporting Worker’s United and will be joining them on the picket line. Worker’s United is affiliated with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) nationally but not directly affiliated with the SEIU Minnesota State Council.

WHAT:
Worker’s United Linen Co-op Strike

WHEN:
Monday, August 5

WHERE:
Health Systems Cooperative Laundries
725 Minnehaha Avenue East | St Paul, MN

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | Monday, August 5
CONTACT:
Kate Brickman | 612-460-1219
Media Relations, SEIU Minnesota State Council

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