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Allina health care workers file notice for strike

SEIU Healthcare Minnesota says the labor union remains divided with Allina on key issues, including management's proposal of a 0% pay increase in the coming year.
Credit: KARE 11
The exterior of Mercy Hospital in 2016. (Photo courtesy: Heidi Wigdahl, KARE)

COON RAPIDS, Minn. — Minnesota hospital workers are planning a potential strike at Allina facilities across the state that could start as early as May 10, should they not reach a contract agreement with management.

Members of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota on Wednesday announced that they have filed a 10-day notice for a strike over unfair labor practices. Frontline workers met outside Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids at 2 p.m. to share their plans.

The labor union says Allina proposed a 0% pay increase in the coming year, the first of the contract, despite months of bargaining. Allina has also "refused to agree to needed changes around workplace safety and safe staffing," the union said in a statement.

SEIU Healthcare Minnesota Executive Vice President Brenda Hilbrich said that if they cannot reach an agreement, the strike would start May 10 and last the entire week "with different facilities joining on different days." 

The informational picket in Coon Rapids Wednesday also aimed to highlight how the health care workers feel "disrespected and devalued" by Allina's proposals, while hospitals are still dealing with the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"COVID has been difficult because of the fear that we will bring it home to our family," said Karen Cullen, a union steward who has worked at Mercy Hospital for over 16 years. "It's critical for us essential health care workers to be valued so we can give the best quality care to our patients and our community. I am ready to strike so management realizes we are valuable employees and we deserve a contract that shows that they respect our work." 

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Wednesday's announcement marks the fourth informational picket outside Allina facilities this month. Similar events have been held at Abbott Northwestern, St. Francis Medical Center and United Hospital.

It also comes after over 200 health care workers at St. Francis Medical Center and Abbott Northwestern voted to authorize a two-day strike last September over health and safety demands during the pandemic. The union announced days later that they were postponing the strike "out of an abundance of caution" after Allina warned of legal action, according to SEIU.

The labor union represents roughly 4,000 health care workers across Minnesota.

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Allina Health issued the following statement Wednesday: 

“Allina Health pays its SEIU represented employees an average of 5% - 6% more than other health systems, and has since 2011. Recently SEIU settled with other healthcare systems in the metro for less than our current proposal, which keeps us as the leader in wages and benefits. Throughout these negotiations we have consistently offered proposals that demonstrate our commitment to our employees, including wage increases and agreeing to some of the union’s other priority issues. SEIU continues to seek an economic package that is unrealistic and does not reflect the financial realities caused by the pandemic. At this time, we have not received a 10-day notice from SEIU that they intend to strike and we look forward to another bargaining session on May 3rd.”