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Protesters carry signs, oppose union contract language

Maintenance workers from Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea picketed outside of the hospital Monday to highlight proposals brought forward by the hospital during contract negotiations that a number of employees said could harm workers, the hospital and the community. - Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

Maintenance workers from Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea picketed outside of the hospital Monday to highlight proposals brought forward by the hospital during contract negotiations that a number of employees said could harm workers, the hospital and the community. – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

Dozens of Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea maintenance workers and members of the community picketed outside the hospital Monday afternoon to highlight their concerns with Mayo Clinic’s proposed union contract.

The maintenance workers, represented by the Service Employees International Union Health Care Minnesota, are opposing language in the contract that would allow Mayo Clinic Health System to make changes to the union’s benefits during the contract’s period. Union members are concerned that the change in the contract would eliminate negotiation. The members want their benefits secured in writing.

Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea maintenance workers, who are members of Service Employees International Union Healthcare Minnesota, were joined Monday by community supporters in their attempt to reach a contract agreement with the hospital. - Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea maintenance workers, who are members of Service Employees International Union Healthcare Minnesota, were joined Monday by community supporters in their attempt to reach a contract agreement with the hospital. – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

The picketers marched up and down the sidewalk outside of the hospital on Fountain Street while chanting their views on the contract process.

“They want to destroy our right to negotiate a fair deal,” said maintenance worker Gary Wichmann.

Kevin Dressen, chief engineer at Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea, is worried that the proposed contract would have a negative effect on the community.

“I’m afraid if we don’t fight back as a community against the hospital’s proposal to take away the voice of longtime community members who work at our hospital, it will mean in the future this will no longer be a career job that supports a family and allows someone to make Albert Lea their home,” Dressen said in a press release.

Tami Yokiel, public affairs manager at Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea and Austin, said the group is being offered the same benefits package virtually all other Allied Health employees receive and the change is better as a whole than the benefits the employees currently receive.

“We are optimistic we will reach a contract agreement acceptable to all parties and will continue working hard toward that end,” Yokiel said. “We are committed to ensuring our patients receive the safest and highest quality health care.”

Maintenance workers from Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea, along with supporters and SEIU representatives, picket outside of the hospital Monday. - Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

Maintenance workers from Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea, along with supporters and SEIU representatives, picket outside of the hospital Monday. – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

Maintenance engineer Henry Tews expressed concern of the effect the change would have on workers, patients and the community.

“We are out here today on this informational picket to let everyone know that our contract isn’t just about us, it is about the future of the hospital,” Tews said.

The union doesn’t have a contract with Mayo Clinic Health System because of the dispute. The next bargaining session is Monday.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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