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Our Union Demands Justice: The Murder of George Floyd

200528_GFloyd_State Council StatementLast week, I woke up to text messages from leaders across our union, sharing news and their reactions to the video of George Floyd. George Floyd, as we now know, was a member of our community and on Memorial Day, he was killed by the police in Minneapolis. I did not want to watch the video, but I made myself watch it. All of it. I am still angry and sick to my stomach. I feel such terrible sorrow for his family. And as a white man I feel ashamed and responsible for our society treating a black man’s life with such cruel disregard.

I know that each person in our union family is responding in different ways this past week. To all the members of color and especially all our black siblings- you matter. Your lives matter and your families matter and our entire union stands with you in grief and anger this week. Grief and Anger for George Floyd, and for Ahmaud Aubrey, for Breona Taylor and so many other lives lost so senselessly.

Last week, I saw Latinx and Asian Pacific Islander sisters and brothers speaking out and demonstrating solidarity. And I heard our White sisters and brothers talking about the work we need to do to stand on the side of people of color and denounce white supremacy.

Now is the time for all of us, white, black, brown, API and indigenous to step up our support and fight to build a country and justice system that works for everyone, without exception. All of us have an obligation to help carry the weight in leading the struggle for racial justice.

In Solidarity,

Jamie Gulley, President

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TeleTown Hall with MDH Commissioner Malcolm

Listen to the recording of the TeleTown Hall with Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm, SEIU Healthcare MN members who work in nursing homes and UFCW members.

1st half of recording:

 

2nd half of recording:

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Allina Temporary Furlough Agreement Extension and TeleTown Hall

Last month, SEIU members across Allina Hospitals and Clinics ratified a furlough agreement providing an opportunity for members to furlough in areas with reduced work-load for a week at a time. The furlough program allowed members to be removed from work for a week at a time in order to provide opportunities for members to apply for unemployment and the additional stimulus money provided by Congress. It was also a way to provide members a chance to take time away from work and possible exposures during the COVID-19 state of emergency.

That furlough agreement expires this weekend on Saturday, May 9th.

For the past two weeks, SEIU Healthcare Minnesota leaders have been discussing an extension of the agreement and I am pleased to report that a copy of that extension is attached with this email (click here).

The extension of the furlough agreement is different in several respects from the original version and required a membership ratification in order to be adopted. Members Wednesday, May 6th during a Tele-Town Hall meeting to accept the agreement.

Teletown hall recording (1st half)

 

Teletown hall recording (2nd half)

 

Summary of Changes:

  • The furlough extension agreement will last from May 10th through July 31st.
  • The extension provides an opportunity for longer furloughs- up to 90 days based on unit/department specific needs.
  • Employees who are on furlough can be asked to return to work with 7-days notice, for surge related reasons or for increased work in the department.
  • Allina will make every effort to start furloughs on Sunday and end furloughs on Saturday, although adjustments may be made to accommodate established weekend schedules.
  • Furloughs will be offered to volunteers starting with the most senior, but if there are no volunteers the agreement allows Allina to mandate furloughs (of up to 90 days) in areas with reduced need.
  • The agreement is intended to prevent lay-offs of SEIU members, but due to the uncertainty of the state of the industry, and because our master contracts provide for 60 day notices of lay-offs, Allina will be permitted, in a worst case scenario to provide lay-off notices during the same time period as the furlough agreement. Both parties hope the furloughs will help ensure that layoff notices will not be necessary.
  • Regardless of the length of the furlough, Allina will continue to pay its portion of employee benefit premiums through the length of this agreement (July 31, 2020).
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May 2020: Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

aapi month May 2020May is “Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.” Throughout the month join us in celebrating the achievements and contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States.

The month of May was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. The majority of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants.

We strongly condemn any and all forms of racism and discrimination against the Asian American Pacific Islander communities due to COVID-19. This virus has the potential to affect all communities, regardless of race, nationality or ethnic background. This is the time for solidarity, not stigma.

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Union Files Comments Opposing Elective Procedures…for now

SAFETY BEFORE PROFITS-01Last 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.

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1,000 Essential Workers Test Positive for COVID-19

Candlelight vigil (5.1On 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.

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Home Care Workers Deserve a Raise!

home care frontline workersOn 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.

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More Agreements on Furloughs and Hero Pay!

hero pay_not cutsLast 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.

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Mayo MOU Vote Results

SEIU members who work at Mayo in Rochester voted to accept the Memorandum of Understanding to allow for temporary furloughs/reductions.

SMH Memorandum of Understanding – Signed Agreement

RMH Memorandum of Understanding – Signed Agreement

If you have any questions about the agreement, please contact a leader at your facility.

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Methodist Furlough Agreement – TeleTown Hall Recording

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?

  • SEIU members on furlough would not work and would not be paid, but would maintain insurance benefits (health, dental, life and short-term disability). SEIU members would be responsible for paying their regular insurance premium contributions, which could be paid upon return to work through payroll deduction.
  • SEIU members on furlough would be encouraged to apply for unemployment insurance benefits through the State of Minnesota. For most, unemployment insurance would replace lost wages. You can learn more about unemployment here: (add link)
  • SEIU members on furlough would not accrue compensated hours for vacation accrual, pension contributions, length of service increases, or for any other purpose.

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:

  • Hero Pay: A dollars-per-hour premium for workers taking care of COVID-19 patients in any setting.
  • Retention Bonus: A bonus in the form of cash money or employer paid health care costs for staying through the pandemic.
  • Extra Shift Bonus: A bonus paid for in-demand professionals who pick up extra shifts or agree to an increase in their FTE.

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.

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