MINNEAPOLIS – A group of healthcare workers employed by Minnesota Epilepsy Group (MEG) throughout the Twin Cities have unanimously voted to authorize a 5-day Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) strike. This vote does not set a date for a strike. The group would have to file a 10-day notice ahead of any strike.
The two sides have bargained six times since October. They twice agreed to extend the prior union contract in order to continue negotiations. But after not reaching agreement on fundamental questions of workers’ wages & retirement security in their last negotiation on February 8th, the contract expired at midnight on February 14th.
SEIU Healthcare Minnesota represents more than 60 Electroencephalogram (EEG) Technologists at MEG, providing essential brain-wave testing services which patients at hospitals and clinics across the Twin Cities metropolitan area rely on every day.
Renee David, a Senior Electroencephalogram (EEG) Technologists at MEG for three years and member of the bargaining team, shared why she voted yes:
“We service a wide spectrum of patients, from people with epilepsy to people who come in during emergency situations like cardiac arrest or newborn babies. We have a team of caring, diverse, smart and hard working individuals and it’s unfortunate that it has come to this. We have made every effort to reach an agreement that is fair to us as employees, but management refuses to meet us halfway,” said David. “Offering 0.6% wage increase in today’s economy after what we’ve experienced is insulting. We’re asking for fair and reasonable compromise where both sides can feel good. Their current offer will increase the burnout healthcare workers are facing which could cause us to lose workers who provide the world-class care our patients deserve. I’m voting yes to authorize a strike because we deserve respect.”
Leah Olsen, a Electroencephalogram (EEG) Technologist who has been at MEG for 11 years, shared why she voted yes to authorize a strike:
“We serve everyone from babies to adults, and I like being able to work across different healthcare settings and the variability of our patients. But we’re stretched so thin. When we’re so short-staffed it’s hard to give the level of care we want to give with work and patients piling up. Most days we have to rush to get everything done. The fact that management is offering basically no raises is disrespectful and insulting for the work we do helping our patients,” said Olsen. “Over the last year and a half, even with less staff, MEG has expanded services and options for patients, which makes their offer of 0.6%/0.6%/0.6% raises even harder to hear. MEG states that they offer focused expertise and comprehensive care, but I’m afraid their offer could potentially lead to the loss of the technologists who help provide that amazing care. I voted yes to strike because I feel like their offer is disrespectful and that both workers and patients deserve better.”
The parties have been unable to reach agreement on the two top priorities of union members for this round of contract negotiations: their wages and retirement benefits. At a time of chronic short-staffing in healthcare and over 7% inflation, many workers in healthcare and other industries are seeing large wage increases, yet MEG is offering raises of just 0.6% per year for each of the three years of a new agreement.
The union bargaining team has repeatedly requested that a federal mediator be brought in to help the parties reach a fair agreement, but the employer has refused mediation. The union bargaining team remains ready to get back to the bargaining table, with a professional mediator’s support, to pursue a fair agreement. With no bargaining dates scheduled, the contract expired, and the employer’s refusal of mediation, and with overwhelming support from fellow union members to call a strike if needed, the union bargaining team will meet soon to determine the date a 5-day strike will begin.
SEIU Healthcare Minnesota represents healthcare and long term care workers in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and home care across Minnesota