Over 400 mental health workers are gathering for a one-day strike on Tuesday in the Twin Cities.
The M Health Fairview and Allina Health workers walked out at 6 a.m., according to a post on Facebook. A "Solidarity Rally at Riverside Hospital" started at noon, located at 25th Avenue South and Riverside Avenue in Minneapolis.
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) said anyone who is a member but not a mental health worker is also encouraged to join the movement. The strike comes as the newly unionized workers are negotiating their first contracts.
"The key issues at both tables are workplace violence, safe staffing, patient care and increasing the respect and pay for these essential workers," SEIU says, adding that currently, employers are continuing to ignore the aforementioned items.
M Health Fairview however accused SEIU of sending its demands just four days before the notice of the strike was issued, despite negotiations having been ongoing since December.
Hundreds of workers were seen walking the streets Tuesday morning, according to the union's social media pages.
Last year, SEIU struck a deal for Allina Healthcare workers that resulted in increasing pay over the next three years, a pension increase, workplace safety improvements, and the recognition of Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a holiday. Bring Me The News reported last year's discussions and outcomes.
Now, the workers continue to push for changes for their mental health workers, as they claim employers have "been delaying negotiations and using every tactic to intimidate, confuse and frustrate the workers." According to the union, an Unfair Labor Practices claim has been filed.
A spokesperson with M Health Fairview provided the following statement on the strike:
"We have an unwavering commitment to our patients and employees to provide a workplace where everyone feeds safe, valued and support. Our psych associates, senior psych associates, and behavioral assistants are critical to our ability to provide high-quality care, especially as health care organizations here and across the country face a dual staffing and mental health crisis.
"Thus far, we have negotiated in good faith with the Union to align on a contract that supports our employees and provides us with the flexibility we need to provide top-quality care to our patients. The Union proposes actions that violate our standards of care, and a patient’s privacy rights. These are items we cannot agree to, and unfortunately, we have not received a health and safety counterproposal from the Union since March. Despite negotiating with the Union 14 times since December 2021, we finally received their opening economic proposal four days after we received notice of a one-day strike. Receiving wage proposals right before a planned work stoppage left us with no time to negotiate, and didn’t give us the chance to avoid a work stoppage that doesn’t benefit anyone, especially our vulnerable patients.
"It is our sincere hope that we quickly align on a contract that provides a fair wage, supports our employees, and provides us with the flexibility we need to provide top-quality care to our patients."
Allina Health also provided a statement on the matter to Bring Me The News:
"Allina Health is disappointed SEIU represented senior mental health senior coordinators and diagnostic sonographers have chosen to strike. We value our employees and recognize the critical services they provide, especially as we face a mental health crisis in our own community and across the country.
"As a health care system, our priority is providing high quality care to the community. Patients are continuing to receive the quality care that they need during this work stoppage.
"We have met with the SEIU represented senior mental health coordinators and diagnostic sonographers 15 times since January to negotiate terms and conditions of employment that recognize the contributions of our employees and the complexity and sustainability of delivering care in our community. Allina Health has offered economic packages that provide competitive compensation and additional benefits. We have also agreed to several union priority proposals and offered the same language agreed to on behalf of other Allina Health employees regarding workplace safety."