Mayo, union reach agreement

Published 10:00 pm Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Contract includes protections for  workers who transition to Austin

Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea and Austin reached tentative three-year contracts with general group and skilled maintenance workers Monday after a nearly two-year negotiating process that included a strike last December.

The employees are members of Service Employees International Union Health Care Minnesota, which represents about 80 people who work as certified nursing assistants, housekeepers, sterile processing and utilities and materials management workers, as well as a half dozen skilled maintenance employees in Albert Lea.

According to the union, the contracts included pay increases ranging from 7.25 percent to 10 percent over the course of the contract. Under the contract, four core employee benefits will be able to be changed. The benefits will be offered to full-time and part-time employees.

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The contract reportedly also includes protections and support for workers who might have to transition to Austin. It also preserves holiday pay.

As part of the agreement, unfair labor practice charges the union and the hospital system filed with the National Labor Relations Board are being dismissed.

The workers engaged in a one-day strike last December during the contract process. They were unable to return until the following week because of replacement contracts the hospital system signed with replacement workers.

The agreement was reached after SEIU members were given time to look over the agreement, and a majority of members voted to approve the plan Monday. Members reportedly authorized a second strike in a vote late last month.

“With a possible second, longer strike looming, the two sides were able to reach an agreement that found both sides compromising at the May bargaining sessions,” an SEIU press release stated.

Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea and Austin CEO Mark Ciota said the contract is “very positive news.”

“Both sides feel strongly that it allows us to move forward, to continue to provide the care to the Albert Lea community and the surrounding communities,” he said.

Ciota thanked union members for their role in the negotiating process.

“They are good, solid people, great employees, and they’re a very integral part of the care we deliver,” he said.

“It’s a true compromise. Nobody gets exactly what they want, but we both have an agreement that we feel lets both parties move forward to provide the care we need to provide.”

Ciota said the hospital system is “very thankful that there hasn’t been a second strike, and we’re looking forward to the future.”

The union press release said “workers expressed pride in standing up for good jobs and quality rural health care, even as Mayo dug in on certain policy proposals that the group had hoped to stop.”

“Being able to win really good pay raises and making sure our contract does not include a subcontracting clause for skilled maintenance jobs were big wins,” said Mayo Clinic Health System Chief Engineer Nate Johnson. “We wish we had been able to get them to move on everything we wanted, but I’m incredibly proud that we stood up for what is right and won the positive changes that we did.”

Johnson expressed hope local efforts would help other union members negotiating for contracts across the country.

Sheri Wichmann, a long-time sterile processing employee, said employees “took a stand, against the odds, because we believed that the work we do in our community hospital in important for our families, our neighbors and our communities.”

“Going on strike and being locked out showed we firmly believed in our fight for good jobs and good health care here in Albert Lea,” she said. “We remain committed to those values. While you always wish you had been able to win everything you set out for at the start, we are proud we were able to move Mayo on important issues facing our families and community.”

About Sam Wilmes

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

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