By Kate Raddatz

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Frontline workers for a major Minnesota healthcare system are prepared to go on strike. The majority of Allina Health’s unionized SEIU Healthcare Minnesota workers voted last week to support an unfair labor practice strike if they cannot reach a deal with management in their latest contract.

SEIU Healthcare Minnesota represents 4,000 healthcare workers in the Allina system, in positions such as LPNs, rehabilitation aids, and emergency department techs.

Allina Health has been in contract negotiations with healthcare workers who are members of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota since January. The union says they’ve bargained eight times with no resolve.

The negotiations come after a challenging year for healthcare workers.

“They’ve been going to work under circumstances they were not prepared for and the employer was not prepared for either,” Brenda Hillbrich, Executive VP of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, said.

The workers say Allina is refusing to offer a pay increase for the first year of the deal, and also say management refuses to address issues regarding workplace safety and staffing.

Dozens picketed Wednesday outside Allina’s Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, one of eight locations where the impacted healthcare employees work.

“It is disrespectful,” patient transport aid Harry O’Mara said. “This should be the easiest we’ve ever had to negotiate after the year we just experienced.”

Allina Health told WCCO they pay SEIU employees 5% to 6% more money, on average, compared to other health systems, and that they lost $32 million last year.

A statement said, in part: “Allina Health respects and values the important contributions of all our employees…We continue to be committed to a settlement that is fair to our employees, patients and our communities.”

The bargaining team would have to give a 10-day notice for any potential strike. The two sides are expected to talk again on Friday.

Kate Raddatz