On the Picket Line

Minnesota health care workers strike 3 days over wages, safety

By Edwin Fruit
October 24, 2022

MINNEAPOLIS — Health care workers here carried out a three-day strike Oct. 3-5 aimed at pressuring bosses at Abbott Northwestern and Mercy Hospital-Unity Campus, both part of Allina Health, to meet their demands for higher wages, better benefits, and safety on the job. Health care workers fighting for contracts throughout the Upper Midwest joined the picket line Oct. 5.

Kellie Benson, a senior mental health coordinator at Abbott-Northwestern, told the Militant on the picket line that the 130 workers had joined the SEIU HealthCare of Minnesota and Iowa union in January. “The vote was over 99% and we have been negotiating for our first contract,” she said. “We always have a shortage of 30 to 40 workers and this puts extra burdens on the rest of us.”

Most of the health care workers have four-year degrees and Allina is offering only a $21.50 hourly wage, below the industry standard, Benson said. “I am proud that not one person crossed the picket line during the three-day strike.”

On the picket line were health care workers from M HealthCare Fairview, who joined the union last year and won their first contract Oct. 3.

Also picketing were SEIU members from Planned Parenthood. Some 400 health care workers at Planned Parenthood North Central States, who work in Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska, had voted by 90% to join the union in July.

Saijen Weihe, who works in the St. Paul Planned Parenthood, said workers there are also trying to get their first contract. “It’s a challenge when we are spread out over five states, but we’re determined to get what we deserve,” she said. “We’re glad to be out here supporting the Allina workers.”