Riled by Allina’s contract demands, workers picket outside Maplewood clinic

Workers picket outside the Aspen Clinic in Maplewood, protesting the company's most recent contract demands.

Workers picket outside the Aspen Clinic in Maplewood, protesting the company’s most recent contract demands.

Disappointed with the demands Allina Health is making in negotiations on a new contract, workers at Aspen Medical Group picketed outside the Allina-operated provider’s Maplewood clinic over the lunch hour today.

Uniform allowances are among the givebacks Allina management is seeking in negotiations with Aspen workers.

Uniform allowances are among the givebacks Allina management is seeking in negotiations with Aspen workers.

The workers, members of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, accused Allina management of seeking to strip their contract of every meaningful benefit they have fought for over the last decade – from uniform allowances to guaranteed health insurance.

“I want Allina to know we’re not going to be kicked to the side,” Aspen nurse Bridget Lundquist said. “If they want to be adults and sit down with us to negotiate, we’re ready.”

SEIU members working at nine Aspen Clinics have been in contract negotiations with Allina Health since May. Their previous contract with the employer expired June 30.

Negotiations on that contract were not nearly as contentious as they have been this year. Aspen phlebotomist Amy Root, a member of the union’s bargaining team, believes that’s because the last round of contract talks took place shortly after Aspen folded into Allina’s network.

“Aspen worked with us then, and they still had mostly Aspen management in negotiations,” Root said. “Now the big Allina management is just coming in and cutting everything, forcing (Aspen) to shove this down our throats.”

Among management’s demands, according to SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, is a plan to base health insurance benefits on biometric screening results, which could force participants to pay higher insurance premiums based on genetic factors outside a person’s control. Workers voted on whether they wanted to participate in the program last year – and rejected it by 99 percent.

The picket line outside Aspen Clinic draws more than 50 supporters.

The picket line outside Aspen Clinic draws more than 50 supporters.

The union says Allina also is demanding the right to eliminate life insurance and long-term disability insurance, eliminate overtime pay and eliminate all shift differentials.

The drawn-out negotiations are taking a toll on employee morale, according to Root.

“They want us to give up everything we’ve worked for in the contract,” she said. “There are a lot of long-term employees here. They like it here. Now because of all the things Allina wants to take back, people are getting upset.”

About 350 SEIU members are covered by the contract. They work in nine Aspen clinics as LPNs, radiology technologists, medical assistants, lab technicians, phlebotomists and patient registration receptions.

The two sides will return to the bargaining table Monday.

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