Employees strike at Mayo Clinic's Albert Lea campus: 9 things to know

Unionized healthcare workers at Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic Health System's Albert Lea campus began to strike Tuesday.

Here are nine things to know.

1. Service Employees International Union Healthcare Minnesota, which represents the workers, announced the strike Dec. 7.

2. Seventy-nine SEIU Healthcare Minnesota members working as certified nursing assistants, housekeepers, sterile processing technicians and in utilities and materials management are participating in the strike. Those employees are part of the general group that voted to authorize a one-day strike in late November. Six skilled maintenance workers who have not had a labor deal for more than two years also voted to participate in the strike.

3. However, Mayo told Becker's more than 12 of these employees have indicated they plan to cross the picket line and work their scheduled shifts Tuesday.

4. SEIU Healthcare Minnesota member Sheri Wichmann, who has worked in sterile processing for 18 years, said of the reason for the strike: "It is insulting that Mayo has treated us and our community this way. We are committed to our job and our community, and all we're asking for is that Mayo recognizes our value. We care deeply about what happens as we are not just employees, but patients at this hospital. We are not asking for the world, just a contract that is fair so we can feel some security for our families. We hope this will make Mayo realize they need to come to the table and negotiate in good faith."

5. Mayo called the timing of the strike "unfortunate."

"We are especially disappointed that the union would call a strike now, since the SEIU [Healthcare Minnesota] general group, which composes the majority of the impacted workers, didn't ask us for a bargaining session between May 2017 and just recently,” the system said. "The maintenance group met for negotiations twice this fall, but has yet to request anything for the future."

6. Mayo said it has notified union leadership and members, in writing, at various times that replacement workers must be brought in to make sure patient care is not disrupted during the strike.

7. The medical center in Albert Lea has contracted with an agency to provide these replacement workers, and a seven-day employment commitment is required, Mayo said. Therefore, striking Mayo employees who are part of the SEIU Healthcare Minnesota general group will be out of work for seven days from the time the strike starts and can return to their job Dec. 26. Mayo said this does not affect the six maintenance workers since Mayo is not contracting replacement workers for them. The maintenance workers are expected to return to their job when their shift starts Dec. 20.

8. Meanwhile, though, Mayo said it is "committed to providing fair wages and benefits. These employees 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." 

9. Members of the Minnesota Nurses Association have said they will picket Tuesday to support striking SEIU Healthcare Minnesota members.

 

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