MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Mayo Clinic in Albert Lea has locked its doors to about 80 workers who participated in a one-day strike Tuesday, according to the union who represents them.
On Tuesday, the workers — who consisted of nursing assistants, housekeepers and maintenance workers — went on strike.
SEIU Healthcare Minnesota says the strike was over changes Mayo wants to make that would undermine good jobs in Albert Lea, and that the hospital continues to demand the ability to subcontract these jobs. Workers say they have been working without a contract for years.
On Wednesday, the union said workers who returned to work at 6 a.m. Wednesday were blocked from entering by Mayo management and security. They will be blocked from entering work for seven days, including Christmas.
Mayo released a statement in response to Wednesday’s events:
SEIU leadership continues to put its own agenda ahead of the well-being of their members, our hardworking employees. By deliberately setting a strike date during Christmas week, they have subjected our employees to needless anxiety and lost wages.
As noted in numerous news reports, Mayo repeatedly communicated to SEIU leaders and members that we would fulfill our primary obligation to provide uninterrupted patient care by bringing in highly skilled replacement workers, with whom we have a one-week contractual commitment. General contract workers who chose to strike on Dec. 19 were fully aware they would not be allowed to return to work until Dec. 26. No one has been taken by surprise by this situation, and it is disturbing to see SEIU leaders pretend otherwise. The responsibility for our valued employees being out of work over the holiday rests squarely with SEIU leaders, who chose to strike rather than bargain in good faith, and chose to call a strike at this time of year.
Mayo has been waiting since May for SEIU to return to the bargaining table. A meeting was finally scheduled for December 28, but SEIU still directed its members to strike before we’ve even resumed talks. We believe our employees deserve a fair contract that maintains the good wages and benefits they receive. We hope SEIU will return to the bargaining table with a commitment to good-faith bargaining in order to reach an agreement.
Gov. Mark Dayton urged both sides on Tuesday to resolve their differences immediately.
The strike came at a time of bitter feelings over rural healthcare in southern Minnesota.
This past fall, Mayo announced plans to move some services out of Albert Lea, and patients needed to start going to Austin. At the time, the clinic said the changes were necessary because of financial losses and a drop in long-term hospital stays.