Still no contract for Walker Methodist workers nearly five years since vote

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Workers at Walker Methodist Health Center in Minneapolis continue to work without a contract. May 2008 will mark five years since nursing home workers there voted to join AFSCME. April 2008 will mark one year since the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) finally certified the pro-union vote, a decision rejecting years of management resistance to the union.

Contract negotiations began in July 2007 and “they have progressed slowly,” said Tom Burke, field representative for AFSCME Council 5. “They still have not given us any wage proposal.”

As the Labor Review went to press February 21, mediation sessions run by the NLRB were scheduled for February 22 and February 25.

In January, Walker unilaterally imposed a health insurance increase of about nine percent, Burke said, prompting AFSCME Local 3532 to file an unfair labor practice charge with the NLRB.

AFSCME also has filed charges with the NLRB accusing Walker of “surface bargaining” — going through the motions of bargaining without bargaining in good faith.

The negotiations include two separate contracts for AFSCME Local 3532’s two units at Walker. One unit includes about 350 workers who are nursing assistants or work in food service, maintenance and housekeeping. The other unit includes about 60 LPNs.

“We’re coming up on a deadline at the end of March,” Burke noted. By March 31, Walker must apply to the State of Minnesota to receive a legislated increase in Medical Assistance reimbursements for nursing home care. State law, however, directs that Walker must have ratified labor agreements to apply for the increase.

“We are nowhere near an agreement,” Burke told the Labor Review February 20. “I have always suspected they would come in in the middle of March and slap a contract on the table and say, ‘sign this.’”

AFSCME urges phone calls to Walker CEO Lynn Starkovich at 612-827-8517 to demand that management negotiate in good faith with the union to ensure economic justice for the workers and to ensure quality care for residents.