MINNEAPOLIS – After workers voted overwhelmingly to organize their union with SEIU Healthcare Minnesota & Iowa last year, Rainbow Health workers reached a tentative agreement on a first union contract with their employer late last week. The contract covers 55 workers who do jobs such as: HIV education and outreach, housing access, case management, behavioral health, benefits counseling, and so many more invaluable roles helping people navigate healthcare systems by breaking down barriers, particularly LGBTQ+ people and those affected by HIV.
Ayo Adebanjo, a bargaining team member who has worked at Rainbow for over five years and currently works as a Navigator, spoke about the powerful process it took to win this TA:
"I enjoy serving marginalized communities as this is important work. It is nice being able to help people get the care they need/are qualified for unbeknownst to them. Through this bargaining process I wanted to see change, especially around how we dealt with race, inequity, and issues surrounding power imbalance. Our work is tied to people's livelihoods, and as a result can be incredibly stressful. Through this contract we set-up a process for how we can improve community care, start to address white supremacist culture, and have leadership pay attention to concerns that were raised. Because of this experience I feel a deeper understanding and connection to the work Rainbow Health does as a whole. I'm glad we increased wages, especially for our therapists, and believe a step has been made towards the organization working to achieve the goals laid out in the mission statement. These gains will help ensure we have the support necessary to better serve our clients. We are all here because we genuinely value the work that we do, but refuse to neglect our needs as individuals. I'm hopeful for the future of Rainbow Health as a whole because of the union."
Rainbow Health management and union bargaining teams reached a Tentative Agreement last week, which will now go out to union members to review, debate and vote on.
The details of the TA are being shared with members, but highlights for a first contract include:
- Salary increases averaging 10% -- and with 6% as the minimum increase for any member -- over a two-year agreement. This is on top of a 3% increase already approved and implemented mid-negotiations, for an average increase of 13.5% over 2.5 years.
- Strong, binding commitments by the employer and the union to work together in pursuit of racial justice, equity and inclusion in all the organization’s work
- A fourfold increase in the employer’s matching of employee 401(k) contributions
- Big PTO accrual increases for many employees, plus expanded bereavement leave, two new floating holidays, the establishment of paid quarantine leave as an ongoing policy, and other improvements to time off policies for all employees
- Reductions in employee health insurance premium payments
- Expanded support for professional development, through reimbursements for educational expenses and for licensure and certification costs
- A new and far better compensation system for psychotherapist members, with a guaranteed annual salary and time off benefits, plus the ability to earn additional pay when they see more patients
- Establishing Just Cause, Progressive Discipline, and a robust Grievance and Arbitration procedure to ensure fair treatment of all Rainbow Health employees
- A new Workplace Health and Safety Committee
Aamina Mohamed, a Housing Advocacy Coordinator for over 1.5 years at Rainbow Health and member of the union's bargaining team, shared excitement over the first contract:
“I supported forming a union to address the need for enhanced transparency to give us a greater understanding and influence over the decisions that shape our work. I believe that we deserve not only improved material conditions but also a sense of purpose attached to a deeper understanding of how our work unfolds, which then allows us to perform our jobs more effectively. This contract significantly improves our working conditions, yielding better outcomes for those we serve. This new collaboration holds great promise for our work. I am particularly thrilled about the wage and 401k increases, as well as the benefits secured for our longstanding employees. These remarkable achievements will undoubtedly empower us to serve our clients better. The success of our group in securing this tentative agreement marks a standout moment in my professional career. I take immense pride in what we have accomplished for ourselves and the individuals who rely on our services, and I know it’s just the beginning of a remarkable tradition."
Members will be voting in the coming weeks on whether to approve the contract, and if the majority votes yes the two-year agreement will go into effect on July 1.