Last week, the Minnesota Department of Health asked for public comment on the return of elective procedures to Minnesota hospitals and clinics. Currently, our union represents nearly 2,000 workers who are experiencing low need or furlough as a result of the temporary halt to elective procedures. While our union wholeheartedly supports resuming surgeries for urgent and critical matters, we continue to oppose a full return of elective procedures…..for now. The key criteria for our support will be adequate supplies of PPE in all areas of the healthcare industry.
Currently, SEIU Nursing Home workers are in many places caring for residents in paper masks they were given a week ago and the gowns we are provided sometimes consist of nothing more than raincoats. We have yet to receive any PPE for home care workers, even for those caring for the clients at greatest risk of exposure. In addition, the PPE supplies on hand in our hospitals are not enough to last through a surge of COVID-19 cases. Our state has made significant progress on preparing for a surge but we are not yet ready for a full return of elective surgeries. Our whole union looks forward to returning to full surgery schedules as soon as we can do it safely.
On Friday, four unions representing Essential workers in Minnesota held a candle-light vigil at the State Capitol. After placing 1,000 candles on the steps of the Capitol to represent the healthcare workers, first responders, grocery store clerks, and meat processing professionals, representatives of each of the unions spoke about the unsafe conditions workers continue to face in Minnesota. 20% of the 5,000 current positive COVID-19 cases in Minnesota affect Essential workers like us.
SEIU Healthcare Minnesota Executive Vice President Lisa Weed attended the vigil and spoke on behalf of SEIU members. Her comments focused on the need for PPE, training and safety measures for nursing home workers and long-term care providers. For more news about the vigil click here.
On Friday, an emergency 15% pay increase for home care workers who are working during the pandemic passed out of the key Ways and Means Committee in the Minnesota House of Representatives. The bill is scheduled for a vote on the House floor this Thursday. This advancement puts us closer to winning a temporary rate increase for home care workers during the state emergency. We are hoping the companion bill will make similar progress in the state Senate this week! We will continue to provide new updates on this important legislation in the days ahead.
Last week, members at the M Health Fairview facilities voted to ratify an agreement providing benefit security and furloughs for members in lieu of layoffs. They also won backpay for the mandatory low needs issued to workers last March for the time period when Fairview abruptly cancelled shifts, March 23-April 5. The agreement covers SEIU members at Bethesda, Lakes, Riverside, Southdale, St. John’s, and St. Joseph’s Hospitals. Members also ratified furlough agreements last week with Mayo (SMH, RMH, and Albert Lea). Congratulations to the members and leaders at Mayo and M Health Fairview!
In addition, workers at Providence Place nursing home in Minneapolis reached an agreement for an additional $5 an hour in hero pay for members, on top of the $2 per hour that was already in place. Hero Pay at Providence Place is now $7 an hour!
At Villa St. Louis Park, extra shift bonuses in the isolation wing were increased by $5 an hour for nursing aides and $10 an hour for nurses picking up extra shifts.
Meanwhile, most of our hospitals and clinics continue to push back on Hero Pay proposals and have rejected any additional pay for taking care of COVID-19 patients. This week we are launching a digital petition for members to sign that will be shared with our employers! All healthcare workers deserve Hero Pay during this time of emergency. Show your solidarity with SEIU members on the front lines of the pandemic by signing our public petition for Hero Pay. Feel free to ask your family members and loved ones to sign on too. We plan to submit the petitions to our employers on Friday! Sign the petition here.
And thank you to the hundreds of members who have already contacted our U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith to push them for emergency federal funding for healthcare-worker hero pay. If you haven’t had a chance to contact them yet, you can do so here.
SEIU members who work at Mayo in Rochester voted to accept the Memorandum of Understanding to allow for temporary furloughs/reductions.
If you have any questions about the agreement, please contact a leader at your facility.
The temporary agreement regarding furloughs was ratified by an overwhelming majority on Saturday and is in effect starting today.
If you were not able to join the telephone townhall meeting this past Saturday, you can listen to a recording below:
First Half of Meeting:
Second Half of Meeting:
Will I be offered a furlough? How will that work?
It is up to the hospital to determine if and how many furloughs are needed in each department/shift. If furloughs are offered, it will be done on a rotational basis starting with the highest senior and going down the list in seniority order. For example: on a unit with 10 employees where the employer has decided to offer three furloughs for the two-week period beginning April 26, the three most senior employees in that area would be offered first. If any of them decline, a furlough would then be offered to the next most senior employee. If the employer then decides to offer three furloughs for the two-week period beginning May 3, the offers will be made to the most senior employees who were not offered the furlough for the previous two- week period. Once the seniority list as applied to the functional unit is used, the rotation will start from the top of the list. If there are not enough volunteers, the hospital may mandate furloughs starting with the least senior.
What does it mean to be on furlough?
Could my scheduled be changed due to this furlough agreement?
Yes, it may be necessary to rebalance or change work schedules after it is determined who would be on temporary furlough. To accomplish this, the hospital would first ask for volunteers to change their schedule, and then determine mandatory schedule changes taking seniority into account, as well as personal hardships, skill mix, etc.
What about Hero Pay or Hazard pay?
SEIU Healthcare MN is avoiding the use of the term “Hazard Pay” because we do not want to imply that we are willing to work unsafely or without the full, appropriate PPE. Our proposal to the healthcare industry on premium payments and bonuses to reward our “Essential” work during the COVID-19 pandemic is as follows:
We have invited all SEIU employers to engage in a discussion on our Essential Worker Payment Program. Most of our employers, including Methodist, are not yet ready to negotiate with us on this subject or have been focused on bargaining income and benefit security for members experiencing reduced hours, furloughs and lay-off. Now that a furlough agreement has been reached, we can focus our efforts on advocating for a premium pay agreement.
In addition, we are working to advance legislation in Congress around PPE and Hero Pay for Healthcare workers. We will be sending an action update on that later this week.
We reached a Tentative Agreement on a temporary “Letter of Understanding” that would be in effect through June 30, 2020. If our state is still experiencing a surge of COVID-19 patients, HealthPartners will have the right to extend this agreement one month. Any additional extensions would be by mutual agreement and we are hopeful that additional action would be taken in Congress to guide any negotiations at that time. Click here for the full text version of the Tentative Agreement. On Sunday, April 19th on the Telephone Town Hall meeting members discussed the LOU, debated the provisions and VOTED on the Tentative Agreement. Below is the recording of the call.
First Half of TeleTown Hall – Questions with President Gulley
Second half of TeleTown Hall – Questions and Vote
The agreement provides economic security for our members in exchange for some flexibility in operations.
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