Saint Paul (Feb. 21) – Workers at Rainbow Health, an AIDS Service Organization in the Twin Cities and greater Minnesota that works with Minnesotans living with HIV, announced that they secured majority support to form their union and join SEIU Healthcare Minnesota. The workers delivered a letter asking for voluntary recognition to their CEO and Board of Directors, who refused to take that step, meaning the workers will hold a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) election vote early next month.
Naomi Kyndberg, a Care Linkage Specialist at Rainbow Health for 6 years, shared why frontline workers are forming their union:
“When I started working here, first as an intern over 6 years ago, I quickly realized that each of our staff members are leaders. We are all dedicated and passionate about the work that we do and are more than willing to advocate for what we think is just. What I have also seen is our actual leaders actively making it more difficult for us to do the work by making decisions that harm our communities, especially our BIPOC communities,” said Kyndberg. “I am fighting for our union so our leaders that work with the communities that we serve have a say in the work that we do. I am fighting for our union so that we can heal the harm caused to us and to our communities through the decisions our CEO and board members have made. I am fighting for our union to have a voice.”
Steven Buric, a Case Management Coordinator with 3 years experience at the organization, shared his thoughts on why this is an important step:
“I am frustrated, as are a lot of us. But I believe that this is also a fight worth fighting. Our clients deserve better than what Jeremy and the Board want us to give them. It seems like they’re only seeing $$$, while we are all seeing folx that need someone to help them heal in a dozen or more ways.”
As Rainbow Health staff head towards their election, the main demands from the group include:
- Safety and stability for both staff and clients
- For decisions at work to be made with transparency and for staff to have a voice in decisions
- Equity and Respect
Zoe Geisen, a Benefits Counselor with 3 years experience at the organization shares her thoughts on the union drive:
"I support a union for Rainbow Health, because I care deeply about the mission and the long term stability of the organization. In my three years of working here, I have been inspired by the care and dedication of all the staff I've gotten to know. We keep coming to work because we are passionate about the work we do, and we have valuable insights into how that work can be done even better. As frontline staff we know what our programs and our clients need, so we are looking for a real seat at the table to have our voices heard and advocate for needed changes," said Geisen. "This is why one important demand we have made is for at least two staff members to act as liaisons to the Board of Directors. We have not always been included in or had timely information about important decisions that affect our programs. By having our staff represented on the board of directors, we can more effectively advocate for our programs and clients. "
Nikki LeClaire, a Medical Case Manager who joined the agency this year, is excited for the election to certify the Union.
“I’ve been with Rainbow Health for just over a month now, and I immediately wanted to be a part of the process to create a union for the agency. During this challenging time in the organization I have seen immense passion and brilliance in my co-workers, which inspired me to remain a part of the agency and help any way I could to make our agency stronger, healthier and more equitable. Our goals as a union are grounded in our dedication and responsibility to our clients and the communities we serve.”
Rainbow Health is staffed by around 60 workers who do jobs such as: HIV education and outreach, housing access, case management, behavioral health, benefits counseling, and so many more invaluable roles serving the needs of their clients and partners toward their goal to end HIV in Minnesota.
The group will begin their NLRB mail election on March 9.
*HIV outbreak is defined as an increase in newly diagnosed cases, often sudden, above what is normally expected in a population or area. For more information please go to the Minnesota department of health’s HIV Outbreak Response and Case Counts page.
SEIU Healthcare Minnesota represents healthcare and long term care workers in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and home care across Minnesota