4,000 Allina Health workers threaten to strike

SEIU Healthcare Minnesota members at Allina Health have authorized their bargaining team to call a strike if the union and Minneapolis-based health system do not reach an agreement, CBS Minnesota reported April 7.

The strike authorization vote covers 4,000 healthcare workers, including environmental service aids, nursing assistants, nutrition services, emergency department techs, warehouse clerks and others. They work at Abbott Northwestern Hospital, Buffalo Hospital, Mercy Hospital, Unity Hospital, Owatonna Hospital, Phillips Eye Institute, St. Francis Regional Medical Center and United Hospital. 

The vote does not mean a strike will take place. However, it allows the bargaining team to give Allina Health a 10-day strike notice if it decides a strike is necessary.

SEIU Healthcare Minnesota said Allina Health and the union have bargained since January and remain divided on issues such as pay. The union said the health system is proposing no pay increase for the first year of the contract and has not been willing to agree to needed changes related to staffing and workplace safety.

"We've been through too much this last year to be OK with 0 percent [pay] increase in the coming year. We've seen other industries offering hero pay and extra benefits to their employees for work during COVID, yet this is what we’re being offered. You can't get much more essential than healthcare workers, yet here we are," Gene Sparks, an emergency medical technician at St. Francis Medical Center in Shakopee, Minn., said in an April 1 news release. "Hopefully Allina comes to their senses and bargains with us, but if they aren't willing to do that, this strike vote shows we are willing to stand up and show our worth. I hope it doesn't have to get to that, but we’re ready if it does."

In a statement shared with Becker's Hospital Review, Allina Health said it respects and values employees' contributions and is committed to responsible stewardship to remain viable for the future. 

Allina Health said it pays SEIU-represented employees, on average, 5 percent to 6 percent more than other health systems.

The health system also said it is recovering from a $32 million loss in 2020, and the union's economic proposals are numerous and unrealistic, including a 17 percent wage increase and 50 percent increases to pension contributions over the life of a three-year deal.

"We have proposed no cuts to compensation along with pay raises in two of the three years of the contract. Most Allina Health employees, including leaders, have taken one-year wage freezes and other compensation cuts because of the difficult financial situation," the health system said.

Another bargaining session is scheduled for April 9. 


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