MINNEAPOLIS — A crowd of several hundred members of Service Employees International Union and their supporters picketed outside Abbott Northwestern Hospital here April 7 in support of the union’s demand for a new contract. When union members chanted, “When we fight,” the crowd answered, “We win!”
The workers have been in contract negotiations with Allina Health since January. There are some 4,000 technicians, nursing assistants, pharmacists, janitors and other hospital workers represented by SEIU at the eight Allina facilities in the area. The workers are fighting against staffing shortages, a lack of safety and for higher wages, as well as job and pension security. So far the bosses have refused any wage increase in the first year of the contract.
“We’ve dealt with PPE shortages, CDC and Allina constantly changing guidelines, we’ve endangered our lives and our families’ lives,” Harry O’Mara, a patient transport aide at Abbott Northwestern, said at the rally. “If they will not negotiate a fair contract, we stand ready to continue to fight. We have overwhelmingly authorized a strike, if necessary, throughout every Allina facility.”
Tracey Pittrich, a registered nurse at Children’s Minnesota hospital and member of the Minnesota Nurses Association, said she came to show solidarity. “We share similar struggles and I want to let them know they are not alone,” she told the Militant.
Socialist Workers Party Minneapolis mayoral candidate Doug Nelson also joined the picket. He took the opportunity to learn more about the hospital workers’ struggle and to discuss the fight for safe working conditions being waged by locked-out Teamster members against Marathon Petroleum in nearby St. Paul Park.
“The reason we’re out here is because workers are being disrespected. I got COVID here, I gave my family COVID, and we were lucky that no one got too sick,” Jeff Sarro, an SEIU union steward at Abbott Northwestern, told Nelson. “They want to offer them nothing, during a pandemic, no extra pay, nothing. That’s why all these people are out here.”
“It’s important that workers are drawing a line, like the locked-out Teamsters and what you guys are doing here today,” Nelson said. “The Socialist Workers Party campaign is going to build solidarity and help bring workers who are fighting together.”
More pickets are slated for St. Francis Regional Medical Center April 14 at 2:30 p.m., United Hospital April 21 at 2 p.m. and Mercy Hospital April 28.