MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Over 200 Allina health care workers at St. Francis Regional Medical Center and Abbot Northwestern Hospital have voted to authorize a two-day strike, starting on Sept. 14.

The workers have been in contract negotiations since May and have bargained eight times. Now, over 90% of the members have supported the Unfair Labor Practice strike after the two parties continue to be divided surrounding the issues of worker health and safety benefits.

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Unlike their co-workers, who have protections to keep their pay and benefits if they contract COVID-19, these workers have a temporary agreement for the first time they have to quarantine. In the past month, multiple members have been forced to use their sick days if they’ve needed to quarantine for second time. They are also looking to receive the same health and safety benefits as other Allina workers, including increased paid time off and improvements to their health insurance and retirement plans.

The striking SIEU Healthcare Minnesota members include sleep lab and surgical techs, respiratory therapists, diagnostic techs, cardiac sonographers, and radiology techs.

“I had to quarantine for possible COVID exposure, and now management has said I would need to use my sick time if I’m exposed again at work. Our work has become even more challenging during COVID, yet here we are fighting for safe working conditions and fair pay and benefits. We deserve better,” said Judy Grack, who has worked for over seven years at Abbott Northwestern as a CT tech. “All frontline healthcare workers should get the pay and protection we need to keep ourselves and our patients safe.”

The proposed strike would begin at 6 a.m. on September 14 and last until 6 a.m. on September 16 at the two hospitals.

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“I’m willing to strike because we are fighting for basic health and safety for ourselves and our patients,” said Phil Goodmanson, who has worked at St. Francis for 10 years as a special imaging tech. “We are simply asking for the things that other workers in our hospital already have so we can continue to provide high-quality care for our community.”

Allina issued a statement in response on Friday afternoon:

Allina Health is committed to reaching a fair and equitable contract settlement with the approximately 220 employees at Abbott Northwestern Hospital (ANW) and St. Francis Regional Medical Center (SFRMC). The contracts covering these employees expired on June 30 and were extended by mutual agreement through July 31. SEIU was not interested in an additional extension beyond that date. 

Throughout these negotiations, Allina Health has consistently offered proposals that demonstrate our commitment to our employees, while also reflecting the current financial realities caused by the pandemic. Despite receiving over $170 million in government support for COVID-19, Allina Health still experienced financial losses of $152 million through the end of June. The SEIU’S proposal for a 13% wage increase over the life of the contract, among other economic enhancement proposals, is simply unrealistic in this current environment. Allina Health has offered 2.25% over the life of each contract and is not seeking any concessions in current contract language.

Strikes are counter-productive and will not bring the parties closer to a negotiated agreement.  It is particularly disappointing that the union would use this tactic in the middle of a global pandemic when Allina employees are focused on delivering needed health care to the communities we serve.  It is also disappointing that the union would state publicly that this is a strike about safety issues, when nearly all of their concerns expressed at the bargaining table in 8 negotiating sessions have been about economic issues. The majority of Allina Health employees have already made economic sacrifices in response to our financial situation.

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Our most important priority is providing high quality care to the community during this unprecedented time. And while we still hope to avoid a labor disruption, we are prepared to continue to provide a full array of patient care services at ANW and SFRMC throughout the duration of a work stoppage by our union employees.