ALBERT LEA, Minn. (AP) — Maintenance and general workers at Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea are walking the picket line in what they're calling an effort to revive stalled contract talks.
Around 80 workers with SEIU Healthcare Minnesota began the walkout at 6 a.m. Tuesday. The union says it's a one-day strike.
Mayo Clinic said Tuesday afternoon that about 20 percent of the employees who were scheduled to work in the General group crossed the picket line and reported to work Tuesday. All of the Maintenance employees honored the strike.
Mayo Clinic released the following statements Tuesday.
• It is unfortunate that the SEIU has deliberately chosen this time of year to strike, subjecting our hardworking employees to uncertainty, anxiety and lost wages during the holiday season.
• We are especially disappointed that the union would call a strike now, since the SEIU General group, which composes the majority of the impacted workers, didn’t ask us for a bargaining session between May 2017 and just recently. The maintenance group met for negotiations twice this fall, but has yet to request anything for the future.
• We know that about 80 employees are affected by the strike, and we’ve heard from over a dozen so far of their intention to cross the picket line and work their scheduled shifts. We support our employees’ right to work.
• As always, our primary obligation is to ensure safe, uninterrupted patient care. We have informed the union leadership and members, in writing, on numerous occasions that we must bring in replacement workers to ensure there are no disruptions. The medical center in Albert Lea has contracted with an agency to provide highly qualified general contract staff to ensure uninterrupted patient care. A seven-day employment commitment is required and is standard industry practice during a strike.
• SEIU’s decision means striking employees will be out of work for seven days from the commencement of the strike – with the exception of the maintenance workers (total of six employees) as we are not contracting replacement workers for this group. They will be expected to return to work at the start of their next shift on Dec. 20. All other general service workers who choose to strike can return to work on Dec. 26.
• While the employees who exercise their legal right to strike will not be paid for 7 days, Mayo has committed to maintain their health care coverage during this period. We value the contribution of our maintenance and general service employees and the important role they fulfill in the operations of Mayo Clinic Health System.
• We remain committed to providing fair wages and benefits. These employees are being offered the same Mayo Clinic benefits package as virtually all other allied health employees, which we strongly believe is better as a whole than the benefits they currently receive.
• The SEIU union strike is NOT about employee health care or bad faith bargaining ― it’s about the union using threats and attempts at intimidation to try to influence the negotiations process.
• Mayo respects and remains committed to the negotiations process. It is our hope the SEIU leadership returns to the table with a renewed focus on reaching an agreement for our employees.
Local lawmakers also weighed in on the strike:
“I deplore this extremely unfortunate situation. I urge both sides to resolve their differences immediately, for the sake of the workers, the patients, and the hospital’s standing in the community," Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said.
"For the sake of workers and their families, negotiations should resume immediately to resolve this unfortunate situation. Locking out workers who are trying to provide for their families and celebrate the holidays with their children is simply unacceptable. This approach is not in the best interests of their patients, workers, or the Albert Lea community," Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith said.
"You shouldn't be using bullying tactics to get your way. You should sit down with people and try to work out issues. You should be willing to look beyond what they accountants say the bottom line is. And say what a community is is about the people and making sure the people have a high quality of life," State Rep. Paul Thissen (DFL) said.