Board: Labor charge against hospital has merit

Published 9:39 am Monday, December 12, 2016

The National Labor Relations Board General Counsel has determined that an unfair labor practice charge against Mayo Clinic has merit.

According to a press release, the Dec. 5 decision stated that Mayo “has failed to bargain in good faith” with SEIU HealthCare Minnesota concerning maintenance employees at Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea.

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Maintenance workers represented by the union are opposing language in a contract that would allow Mayo Clinic Health System to make changes to the union’s benefits during the contract’s three-year period. Union members are concerned that the change in the contract would eliminate negotiation. The members want their benefits secured in writing.

Future bargaining dates between the maintenance workers and Mayo Clinic have not been scheduled.

The decision came after Albert Lea maintenance workers Bill and Nate Johnson traveled to Washington, D.C., to attend oral arguments before the board regarding the case.

In a joint statement released following the decision, Bill and Nate Johnson said they wished Mayo would bargain fairly with them.

“Like many of my co-workers, I’ve worked for Mayo for over three decades, and I am proud of our work making sure the Albert Lea hospital stays up and running,” Bill Johnson said. “We aren’t asking for executive salaries, just respect for our work and dedication to the hospital after all these years. I hope Mayo finally sits down in good faith. It is time to bargain a fair contract so we can continue to work to make the hospital the best it can be for the Albert Lea community.”

Mayo Clinic Public Affairs specialist Kristyn Jacobson said the determination was not a final decision.

“Regarding the NLRB General Counsel’s referenced position on the Albert Lea maintenance employee contract negotiations, an administrative law judge will now hold a hearing to determine the validity of the union’s allegations about contract bargaining. We are confident that Mayo Clinic Health System has bargained in good faith and await the outcome of the hearing.”

In a statement released after the determination, SEIU Healthcare Minnesota President Jamie Gulley said Mayo has strayed from its stated mission.

“This determination by the NLRB General Counsel confirms how unreasonable Mayo is being by refusing to conduct even basic negotiations with a group of workers that have decades of experience keeping the hospital in Albert Lea running,” he said. “Mayo needs to be a hospital system that works for everyone, not just those at the top. For maintenance workers in Albert Lea and food service workers across southern Minnesota, this determination by the NLRB General Counsel is no surprise and highlights how far Mayo seems to have strayed from caring about their employees. It is time for Mayo to treat the workers who make their hospitals great with the respect they deserve and get back to the bargaining table.”

SEIU Healthcare Minnesota has also filed a charge against Mayo in connection with Mayo’s decision to transition its food and nutrition services from Sodexo to Atlanta-based Morrison Healthcare.

About Sam Wilmes

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

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