Mental health workers notify Allina, Fairview of intent to strike again

Mental health workers picketed outside MHealth Fairview hospital during a one-day strike in May

More Twin Cities health care workers are poised to strike for safer hospital staffing.

Mental health workers at MHealth Fairview and two Allina Health hospitals notified the providers today of their intent to open a three-day strike Oct. 3. The bargaining units bring together over 400 essential employees who organized unions with SEIU Healthcare Minnesota and Iowa last year.

The union announced 98% of participating members voted to authorize a three-day strike last month, a sign of increasing frustration with the lack of progress toward first contracts that address their top priorities.

“We are ready to strike because we are facing dangerous staffing levels and it feels like no one in power cares,” said Dana Disbrow, a psychiatric associate at MHealth Fairview. “The current staffing situation is a nightmare, and we are fighting for a fair contract that finally addresses these concerns.”

In addition to staffing shortfalls, union members want contract language that addresses safety issues inside their buildings, including threats of gun violence.

“We face many challenging and risky situations every shift,” said Amanda Reasor, a senior mental health coordinator at Allina Unity Hospital. “We want to be able to have the resources we need to cope with the constant stress that we are under and have guidelines that further protect us from harm.”

Union members raised those concerns in a one-day strike May 24, during Mental Health Awareness Month. But Kellie Benson, senior mental health coordinator at Abbott, said hospital administrators still aren’t listening.

“The longer our employers dismiss the significant concerns raised by staff working face to face with patients in mental health care, the harder it will be to heal, not only for those experiencing mental health crises, but for our entire community,” Benson said.

Union members work as psych associates and behavioral assistants at MHealth Fairview Hospital, and as senior mental health coordinators at Allina Health’s Abbott Northwestern and Unity hospitals.

MHealth and Allina employees bargain at separate tables, and each unit has one scheduled session left before the unfair-labor-practice strike is scheduled to start.

The systems were among those affected by a historic, three-day strike by 15,000 members of the Minnesota Nurses Association earlier this month. Like nurses fighting for contracts that put patients over profits, mental health workers said they are fighting for contracts stabilize their industry for workers and patients

“It is unfortunate that we feel the only way Allina will hear us is if we take drastic action,” Reasor said. “We have made immense strides toward a fair resolution while also demanding fair wages, wholistic benefits, and a safer workplace. We deserve to be treated like the professionals we are, yet Allina has come back time and time again saying ‘not interested’ to some of the most important facets to our contract.

“If we don’t see significant strides on Allina’s part, we will strike.”

%d bloggers like this: