Mayo Albert Lea workers banned from returning to work after strike

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Unionized healthcare workers at Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic Health System's Albert Lea campus unsuccessfully tried to return to work Wednesday morning following a one-day strike, according to the Albert Lea Tribune.

The workers, who are represented by the Service Employees International Union Healthcare Minnesota, went on strike Tuesday. The strike affected 79 union members working as certified nursing assistants, housekeepers, sterile processing technicians and in utilities and materials management. Those employees are part of the general group that voted to authorize a one-day strike in late November. The strike also affected six skilled maintenance workers who have not had a labor deal for more than two years.

Mayo told Becker's 20 percent of the employees who were scheduled to work in the general group crossed the picket line and reported to work Tuesday. All six maintenance workers participated in the strike.

The day after the strike, general group workers arrived at Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea about 6 a.m. and were told by hospital management and security they could not go back to their jobs until Dec. 26, SEIU Healthcare Minnesota told the Star Tribune. The union has described the move as a "lockout" and claimed in the report it was the first such healthcare lockout in Minnesota. 

Mayo said it repeatedly told SEIU leaders and members that the system would bring in replacement workers in the event of a strike. Since a seven-day employment commitment is required for those replacement workers, striking Mayo employees who are part of the SEIU Healthcare Minnesota general group were told they could not return to their job until Dec. 26. Mayo did not contract replacement workers for the maintenance workers, so they were expected to return to their job Dec. 20.

"No one has been taken by surprise by this situation, and it is disturbing to see SEIU leaders pretend otherwise. The responsibility for our valued employees being out of work over the holiday rests squarely with SEIU leaders, who chose to strike rather than bargain in good faith, and chose to call a strike at this time of year," Mayo said.

SEIU Healthcare Minnesota general group members are slated to resume contract negotiations with Mayo Dec. 28. Another negotiating session has not been set for the maintenance workers, according to the Albert Lea Tribune. 

A key sticking point in negotiations involves benefits. Mayo has said employees represented by SEIU Healthcare Minnesota "are being offered the same Mayo Clinic benefits package as virtually all other allied health employees, which we strongly believe is better as a whole than the benefits they currently receive." 

But the union has taken issue with language stating union benefits could change when there is a change in benefits for nonunionized employees, according to the Albert Lea Tribune.


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