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Allina Health workers intend to strike if contract deal can't be reached

The week-long strike would start May 10.

Thousands of Allina Health workers are preparing to strike over a contract they say is unfair and disrespectful. 

SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, which is the union representing 4,000 frontline healthcare workers at eight Allina Health facilities in Minnesota, could go on a week-long strike on May 10 if they don't reach a deal on a new contract. 

On Wednesday, workers announced they plan to file a 10-day notice to strike, saying they need a contract that "respects us, protects us and pays us." 

"I'm ready to strike because I feel like it's a shame our employer isn't willing to see how hard all of us have worked through the pandemic on the front lines. We're being treated like a number, not valued employees, and that feels very disrespectful," Karen Cullen, who has worked in environmental services at Mercy Hospital for more than 16 years, said in an SEIU Healthcare Minnesota news release. 

"COVID has been difficult because of the fear that we will bring it home to our family. It's critical for us essential healthcare workers to be valued so we can give the best quality care to our patients and our community. I am ready to strike so management realizes we are valuable employees and we deserve a contract that shows that they respect our work."

Workers previously authorized an unfair labor practice (ULP) strike if they couldn't reach a deal on a new contract, an SEIU Healthcare news release said.

The parties have met for bargaining 10 times since the beginning of the year, but have remained divided on some key contract issues. 

Allina proposed a 0% pay increase in the coming year (the first year of a three-year contract) for employees who've been working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic for more than a year, the labor union says. Workers also said the healthcare system isn't willing to discuss creating an "inclusive and respectful workplace" or how to "keep us safe at work."

In a statement to Bring Me The News, Allina Health said: 

“Allina Health pays its SEIU represented employees an average of 5%-6% more than other health systems, and has since 2011. Recently SEIU settled with other healthcare systems in the metro for less than our current proposal, which keeps us as the leader in wages and benefits.

"Throughout these negotiations we have consistently offered proposals that demonstrate our commitment to our employees, including wage increases and agreeing to some of the union’s other priority issues. SEIU continues to seek an economic package that is unrealistic and does not reflect the financial realities caused by the pandemic. At this time, we have not received a 10-day notice from SEIU that they intend to strike and we look forward to another bargaining session on May 3.”

The union and Allina are set to meet again to discuss worker contracts on May 3, the union says. 

The announcement of the union's intent to file a 10-day strike notice coincided with an informational picket (the fourth one this month) workers held outside Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids Wednesday afternoon. It aimed to highlight how workers have felt "disrespected and devalued" by Allina's contract proposals, a release said. 

SEIU Healthcare Minnesota represents Allina workers who do jobs that include nursing assistants, environmental service aids, nutrition services, techs, and aids who work at Abbott Northwestern Hospital, Buffalo Hospital, Mercy Hospital, Unity Hospital, Owatonna Hospital, Phillips Eye Institute, St. Francis Regional Medical Center and United Hospital.

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