Hospital workers picket Allina hospitals, calling for safe staffing levels

  Nearly 1,000 members of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota and supporters walked an informational picket line yesterday at Abbott-Northwestern Hospital, calling for safer staffing levels. “I’m here for our patients’ quality care as well as for health and safety for my co-workers,” said one of the picketers, Kalsang Dickey, Richfield, who has worked as a nursing assistant at Abbott Northwestern for 15 years.Contract negotiations are underway for about 3,000 hospital workers at Abbott-Northwestern and seven other hospitals owned by Allina Health: Buffalo, Mercy, Owatonna, St. Francis, United, Unity, and Phillips Eye Institute. The workers’ contract expired February 28.“Allina has cut staff at every hospital in the last three years, but we are still working the same or more hours and it means we are constantly understaffed,” Dickey said. “It’s hard for us to take care of patients.”Dickey works in the Mother Baby Center at Abbott-Northwestern and said sometimes only one nursing assistant is scheduled for the night shift. “If we have more nursing assistants, we can do a better job taking care of our patients’ needs.”SEIU Healthcare members also raised concerns about Allina proposals to subcontract hospital jobs and the impact on workers and patients.“If Allina executives subcontract hospital jobs like Dietary and Environmental Services to the lowest bidder, I think there will be higher turnover, less training, lower standards, and all of that will harm patient care,” warned Dawn Akkaya, SEIU Healthcare member who for 16 years has worked as nursing assistant and patient assistant coordinator at Abbott-Northwestern. Continue Reading

Despite lock-out, Minnesota Orchestra musicians produced their own concerts and now announce plans for future performances

Two days before the Minnesota Orchestral Association’s annual meeting, the musicians locked out by orchestra management presented their own “Community Report” December 9.The musicians — members of Twin Cities Musicians Union Local 30-73 — were locked out by management October 1, 2012 when they refused to agree to a contract they believed would compromise the orchestra’s world-renowned quality.Meeting at the Hilton Hotel just kitty corner from the newly-remodeled Orchestra Hall, the locked-out musicians reported to a packed room of supporters about the concerts they have produced on their own during the lock-out. They also announced plans for continuing concerts.“It remains our goal to come to a contractual resolution with the Orchestral Association which will maintain a world-class orchestra in the Twin Cities,” said Tim Zavadil, bass clarinet, the musicians’ chief negotiator.In the meantime, the musicians have presented their own concerts, bringing in the orchestra’s former music directors to conduct them. Since the lock-out began, they have performed nearly 30 concerts for almost 30,000 people and sold out all of their ticketed performances, the musicians reported.The musicians announced that, as of November 15, they had raised more than $650,000 in donations from 87 different orchestras and nearly 1,200 individuals in 33 states and four countries.The musicians also announced several future concert dates in a “Winter-Spring Series” (see page 3 for next performance).The musicians have indicated they may form a 501(c)(3) organization “to inspire an ever-widening audience to seek a lifelong relationship with great symphonic music. Our plans in the new year will reflect this vision, and we feel energized and appreciative as we move forward, hand-in-hand with our community.”“We’re doing this because we are a family and you, our audience, are part of our family,” Tony Ross, principal cellist told the December 9 meeting. “We will not let you down. Continue Reading

Project labor agreement for Vikings stadium build brings all-union job

Work on the new $763 million Minnesota Vikings stadium — officially the “Minnesota Multi-Purpose Stadium” — will be an all-union job.Construction will involve an estimated four million work hours. At construction peak, some 1,300-1,400 workers will be on-site.The public authority which will own the stadium, the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, required project contractor M.A. Mortenson Company to negotiate a “Project Labor Agreement” with the Minneapolis Building and Construction Trades Council.A Project Labor Agreement serve a public purpose by ensuring that the work on the project continues on schedule without any labor disputes.The 14-page agreement, signed November 22, 2013 commits the unions to no strikes or slow-downs and commits the contractor no lock-outs during the construction of the stadium.The agreement also makes the job an all-union job by recognizing the jurisdiction of the two dozen Building Trades unions named in the PLA.Both parties to the agreement also commit to a grievance and arbitration process to resolve any issues or disagreements that may arise.“It’s the largest Project Labor Agreement in the history of the state,” said Dan McConnell, business manager of the Minneapolis Building and Construction Trades Council.He noted that the Council has entered into many PLA agreements with Mortenson in the past, including for the construction of Target Field.The PLA commits both parties to use good faith efforts to meet the diversity goals for the project workforce established by the MSFA: 32 percent minority and six percent female.Building Trades unions are gearing up to meet the diversity requirements, McConnell noted, putting training programs and strong safety programs in place.The PLA is a win-win-win for the Building Trades, Mortenson, and the MSFA, McConnell said. “It’s going to mean the project will be done by good quality contractors and hard-working union men and women.”Ironically, McConnell noted, “the first PLA we ever did was with the Metrodome,” which will be torn down to make way for the new stadium. Continue Reading

For striking laborers at Cretex, preserving their pension is key issue

For 38 members of Laborers Local 563 on strike at the Cretex concrete manufacturing plant, preserving the promise of their hard-earned pension is the key issue.Workers voted to go on strike June 19. When the Labor Review went to press July 19, they continued to walk their picket line — with no further negotiations scheduled, according to Steve Buck, Local 563 business agent.A visit to the Cretex picket line mid-day July 10 took place as the morning picket shift of striking workers mingled with the afternoon picket shift and the union provided a dozen take-out pizzas for lunch for all.“We’ve been out for three weeks,” said Todd Mutch, Apple Valley, who has worked 29 years at Cretex and is Local 563’s steward at the plant. “Out of the three weeks, they haven’t made one day’s worth of product.”Mutch summed up the reason for the strike. “We don’t want to give up our pension,” Mutch said. “They’ve been trying to shove this 401(k) down our throats.”“They’re trying to take money we allocated from our raises and put it in their pocket,” he added.In place of the $4.07 per hour that the workers have chosen to allocate to their defined benefit Laborers pension fund, the company would contribute $1.19 per hour to a 401(k) plan.The workers are pretty savvy — they know that they’re better off with the current defined benefit plan instead of the proposed 401(k) plan, which is subject to the ups and downs of the stock market.Plus, under the company proposal, workers with less than five years at Cretex and not fully vested in the pension would lose everything they’ve contributed.‘We’re diverse. Continue Reading