More than 200 Allina Health technical workers have filed a notice to strike at two Twin Cities metro hospitals later this month.
The workers are represented by SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, which on Thursday filed notices for strikes at the St. Francis Regional Medical Center in Shakopee and Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis from 6 a.m. Sept. 14 through 6 a.m. Sept. 16.
The strike was approved by 90% of the union members, following months of contract negotiations. The company and union representatives have bargained eight times since May, and have yet to come to an agreement on whether technical workers will have language in their contract ensuring pay and benefits for potential exposures to Covid-19, the union said in a press release.
Technical workers — which includes technicians in medical labs, surgery, and radiology, as well as diagnostic technicians — have a temporary agreement ensuring they can keep their pay and benefits during a quarantine.
However, in the last month, multiple workers dipped into their sick time to cover time missed after potential exposure to COVID-19 for a second time, the union claims. Other Allina employees have contracts ensuring they can keep their pay and benefits.
In addition, the technical workers are pushing for increased paid time off and improvements to health insurance and retirement plans.
"I had to quarantine for possible COVID exposure, and now management has said I would need to use my sick time if I’m exposed again at work," Judy Grack, a CT tech at Abbott Northwestern, said in the release.
"Our work has become even more challenging during COVID, yet here we are fighting for safe working conditions and fair pay and benefits. We deserve better."
Allina Health comment
Allina Health is committed to reaching a fair and equitable contract settlement with the approximately 220 employees at Abbott Northwestern Hospital (ANW) and St. Francis Regional Medical Center (SFRMC). The contracts covering these employees expired on June 30 and were extended by mutual agreement through July 31. SEIU was not interested in an additional extension beyond that date.
Throughout these negotiations, Allina Health has consistently offered proposals that demonstrate our commitment to our employees, while also reflecting the current financial realities caused by the pandemic. Despite receiving over $170 million in government support for COVID-19, Allina Health still experienced financial losses of $152 million through the end of June. The SEIU'S proposal for a 13% wage increase over the life of the contract, among other economic enhancement proposals, is simply unrealistic in this current environment. Allina Health has offered 2.25% over the life of each contract and is not seeking any concessions in current contract language.
Strikes are counter-productive and will not bring the parties closer to a negotiated agreement. It is particularly disappointing that the union would use this tactic in the middle of a global pandemic when Allina employees are focused on delivering needed health care to the communities we serve. It is also disappointing that the union would state publicly that this is a strike about safety issues, when nearly all of their concerns expressed at the bargaining table in 8 negotiating sessions have been about economic issues. The majority of Allina Health employees have already made economic sacrifices in response to our financial situation.
Our most important priority is providing high quality care to the community during this unprecedented time. And while we still hope to avoid a labor disruption, we are prepared to continue to provide a full array of patient care services at ANW and SFRMC throughout the duration of a work stoppage by our union employees.