‘Insulting’ wage offer prompts strike at MN Epilepsy Group

SEIU members picket outside Minnesota Epilepsy Group in Roseville, one of two picket lines set up on Day 1 of the unfair labor practice strike.

Union members who work at Minnesota Epilepsy Group (MEG) are on strike this week for wages in line with the world-class care they provide.

The union of 60 EEG technologists, who provide brain-wave testing to patients at hospitals and clinics across the Twin Cities, set up picket lines today outside the employer’s headquarters in Roseville, as well as Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis.

Workers called the five-day strike after management stuck to its demand for annual wage increases of less than 1% in last-ditch contract negotiations Tuesday.

A day later, MEG presented union members with its “last, best and final” offer and demanded a response – accept or reject – within three hours. SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, which represents MEG workers in bargaining, called that an impossible timeline, noting that its bylaws require members have at least three days to review any proposal before voting.

Leah Olsen, who serves on the union’s bargaining team, said MEG employees are “shocked and insulted” by the by the way negotiations have played out.

Leah Olsen is a member of the union’s bargaining team.

“Being here 11 years, this is the lowest I’ve ever heard of them offering in terms of raises,” she said. “It’s very disappointing, especially with working through COVID and being shorter-staffed than I’ve ever seen in the last couple years, as we’ve expanded to a few different hospitals.”

Picketing comes after union members delivered 10 days’ notice of their intent to strike over unfair labor practices. Olsen said the bargaining team made clear to MEG that they were willing to return to the table any time in the hopes of reaching a deal that would have prevented the strike from starting.

But workers are united, too, behind winning higher wage increases than MEG has offered so far – without giving up the longevity-based step increases that have been part of their union contract for decades. Of the 57 members who participated in the strike-authorization vote, 100% voted to strike.

“If the company is struggling to stay afloat, then we need a thorough and honest explanation of that, and an explanation of why – if they are broke – they agreed to several other changes to the contract that would cost them more money,” said Meagan Weitzel, who has worked for MEG for 7 years.

“MEG has added multiple new hospital contracts and two new clinic facilities since we last negotiated with them three years ago,” Weitzel added. “We struggle to understand why they need us to settle for anything less than the cost of living increases we are all facing.”

Meanwhile, SEIU Healthcare Minnesota has filed charges of regressive bargaining, accusing MEG of backing out of positions it had previously agreed to at the negotiating table.

The whole process, Olsen said, has felt “disrespectful given what we do and the level of care we deliver to patients.”

“I don’t know what their goal is, but this does not feel great,” she added. “We’re out here to show them that we’re unified for a fair contract.”

The strike will run through Friday. The union plans to picket from 6:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. each day outside MEG’s offices in Roseville, at 2720 Fairview Ave. N. Workers also plan to picket each day outside hospitals where they provide services, including United Hospital in St. Paul later this week.

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