After hundreds marched together outside Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis yesterday, the picket line shifted to United Hospital in St. Paul today, as health care workers kept the pressure on Allina Health to get serious about contract negotiations with their union, SEIU Healthcare Minnesota.
Workers like Dave Young, a nursing assistant at United, want Allina to come to the table so that, together, they can make progress on issues important to patients and workers alike, including safe staffing levels.
Workers are pushing for contract language that would minimize the potential for hospitals to be caught short-staffed. They say drastic cuts made by the provider in recent years have resulted in over 1,000 staffing emergencies, defined by Allina as any time a staff member works more than 120 hours in a two-week pay period.
After his supervisor unexpectedly notified Young he would be “floated” into the post-op ward one night at United, Young was shocked to find out he was the only aide on the hospital’s longest floor, with nearly 30 patients.
“Even though there were nurses on staff, one aide for the whole floor? That compromises patient safety,” he said.
Workers also called on Allina executives to drop their demand for contract language that would allow the nonprofit health provider to subcontract out hospital jobs to firms that pay lower wages and do not offer health and pension benefits negotiated by the union.
“I can count on 10 hands the number of times I’ve had a patient tell me, ‘You people do not get paid enough for the work that you do,’” Young said. “Yet Allina seems to think that we make too much.”
SEIU Healthcare Minnesota represents over 3,000 Allina workers, including nursing assistants, Environmental Services staff, cooks, dietary staff, licensed practical nurses and X-ray, surgical and sterile processing technicians.
The workers have been without a contract since their previous agreement expired March 1. Negotiations began in January, and the two sides are scheduled to meet again next Tuesday.
Allina is the hold-out system in Metro-wide negotiations between hospitals and health care workers that resulted in a new contract for about 3,500 workers at Children’s, Fairview, HealthEast, North Memorial and Park Nicollet, reached in February.