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Newly organized workers at 3 Allina hospitals picket for raises and PTO in fight for first contract

By staff

SEIU picket line at Unity Hospital.

Minneapolis, MN – On March 1, workers held pickets at three Allina Hospitals in the Twin Cities metro area. The pickets were held at Allina’s Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids, and Unity Hospital in Fridley. Coon Rapids and Fridley are suburbs of Minneapolis. The pickets were part of a fight for first contracts for a large collection of groups who recently organized and joined the Service Employees International Union, Healthcare Minnesota and Iowa (SEIU HMNIA).

The first group to join the union, and who have been bargaining the longest, was 220 laboratory assistants, technicians, and scientists from Allina’s Central Lab attached to Abbott Northwestern Hospital. They were joined at the pickets by other newly-organized groups like physical and occupational therapists at Abbott Northwestern, as well as long time members at the hospital picketing in support of the new union members.

SEIU HCMNIA has represented workers at Abbott Northwestern since they organized in 1934, forming the first hospital union in the United States. SEIU HCMNIA had represented around 1000 workers at the hospital before the wave of new organized started in Allina, and now represents around 1400 workers there after several new groups have joined in the last year and a half.

Workers say they have been organizing for many reasons, but one major motivator is that Allina has severely cut their PTO banks twice over the last two years even as folks worked extra shifts and put their lives in danger to keep the hospitals open throughout the pandemic.

After the lab workers joined the union at Abbott Northwestern, workers across the Allina system began joining in a large wave of organizing in the system, which increased numbers of SEIU HCMNIA-represented workers from around 4000 to around 5500 members. Nearly all of the workers are still fighting for a first contract. The most recent group to join was 365 service and maintenance workers at Unity Hospital, who also held pickets along with workers from the lab onsite and mental health workers who also joined recently. At Mercy Hospital pickets were held by newly-organized lab workers and mental health workers.

Barb Shoemaker, a patient care technician at Unity Hospital who was involved in organizing to join the union, states, “At Unity we organized for several reasons. We joined the union to fight for the safety of our patients and for our staff safety, as well as patient staff ratios. Our benefits keep getting taken away by management. So, we came together and picketed to show management that we are willing to fight for what is right.”

The different groups of workers are at very different stages of bargaining, with some lab workers 14 months into their fight for a first contract, and others just beginning the process. The mental health workers at Mercy, Unity and Abbott Northwestern have all held multiple one-day strikes together over the last year. The new union members understand that their fight is together as workers at Allina and if they want to win good first contracts they need to organize together to force Allina to meet their demands.

The new SEIU members will continue to fight for the contract they deserve and say they are not ready to settle for what the boss is currently offering.  The 4000 longtime members of SEIU are currently under contract until 2024, when they will be bargaining next contracts across the entire system.

#MinneapolisMN #SEIU #SEIUHealthcareMinnesota