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

Governor’s Appointment Draws Praise and Applause from Local Somali Community

It’s not everyday that a Governor’s appointment gets special attention, reception or special interest from local and international media. But then again, it’s not everyday that the governor appoints a minimum wage worker to oversee an agency that has such direct impact on the lives of thousands of people everyday. Ibrahim Mohamed, a cart driver for Air Serv is now part of the Metropolitan Airports Commission. His appointment drew more than fifty people, including Governor Dayton, members of the Metropolitan Airports Commission and community leaders on a chilly Tuesday evening at the Brian Coyle Center in the Cedar Riverside Neighborhood.  He is the first Somali-American to hold that post and was appointed by Governor Dayton in Febraury. Continue Reading

Tentative agreement reached at eight Twin Cities hospitals

MINNEAPOLIS — SEIU Healthcare Minnesota members at eight Twin Cities Hospitals have reached a tentative agreement on a new three-year contract that includes strengthened health and safety provisions to protect both workers and patients. The new language represents a significant step forward on a major goal for the 3,500 workers covered by the contract, the union said. “With the shift in healthcare towards primary, preventive and ambulatory care, the patients we see in our hospitals are sicker and the threat of infectious agents is greater than ever before,” said Maxine Maxon, a Nursing Assistant at the Fairview University of Minnesota Medical Center in Minneapolis. “We are proud that we won stronger protections for our health and safety at work, as well as the health and safety of our patients and anyone who visits our hospitals.”

“We are the people who take care of our patients and take care of our hospitals, so we want to make sure that no one is put in an unsafe situation if it can be avoided,” said Billie Brown, a Mental Health Assistant at North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale. “Our new contract will help us limit exposure to infectious agents in our hospitals and it addresses our right to refuse work in certain circumstances where our health and safety may be at risk.”

The agreement was reached early Friday morning, shortly before Sunday’s expiration of the current contract. Continue Reading

Sumer Spika: Home care workers unionize to bring dignity to work we love

On Tuesday, July 8th, I was proud to be part of the group who celebrated turning in thousands of cards signed by Personal Care Attendants (PCAs) and other home care workers from across Minnesota expressing our interest in forming a union. The move not only triggered the largest union election in Minnesota’s history, it was the first step in improving our state’s home care system so it works for those who need services and values the work of those of us who provide the services, some 90% of whom are women.If you talk to the thousands of home care providers who signed cards, you will hear that same number of unique and powerful stories. There is, however, a common thread that helps illuminate why this is such a powerful movement: we love providing care for the seniors and people with disabilities who we serve.For me, it is all about a gorgeous 6-year-old little girl named Jayla. She was born with a genetic disorder called Opitz Syndrome, has a pulmonary hypertension, and is deaf. She requires breathing treatments, help with toileting, and help doing many other daily activities. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | Immigration reform: Shared humanity matters more than differences

Although I have not suffered the agony of navigating my way through this country’s broken immigration system, I have experienced the trauma that it causes by keeping people from the ones they love. It is something I think about as I follow the Fast for Families happening in Washington, D.C., and events across the country in support of commonsense immigration reform.I am an African-American. Born outside of Minneapolis to immigrant parents from Eritrea, I was well aware of the challenges of the immigrant experience, but it wasn’t until I told my parents about my work on SEIU’s immigration reform campaign that they related to me the details of my mother’s experience living as an undocumented worker for the first few years of my life.My mother entered the United States after fleeing Saudi Arabia; she was granted a visa to visit my father, who had arrived the year before as a refugee after working at a camp in Sudan. My parents were engaged in Eritrea but separated by the effects of war.By the time my sister and I were born, our mother’s visa had expired and she was facing deportation. In our culture, it’s nearly sinful to separate young children from their mother, so my parents were struggling with this choice: to keep their children from their mother and raise them in the country they sacrificed so much to reach, or to raise them away from their father in their war-torn homeland.My father–the very stubborn, but also incredibly smart man that he is–insisted that our family would not be separated. Continue Reading

Marching for jobs and justice in St. Paul, 50 years after March on Washington

Community leaders gathered in St. Paul on Wednesday, August 28, to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington. Like the original march, a combination of organized labor, community leaders, and representatives of the faith community put this one on.At Frank Boyd Park just behind the St. Paul Cathedral, a small but enthusiastic group gathered in the mid-day heat. March organizer Harrison Bullard, of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), invoked the memory of Frank Boyd, the namesake of the park, saying he was a porter and a “member of one of the first black unions,” as well as a member of the NAACP. Continue Reading

Bernie Hesse: Seeing hope in young organizers at Jimmy Johns

Bernie Hesse is the Director of Special Projects and Political Director at UFCW Local 1189. Hesse took a break from contract negotiations for grocery workers to talk to the Twin Cities Daily Planet about the future of unions and jobs in Minnesota.  “We believe that working people should be paid a good and fair wage,” he told the Daily Planet. “Nobody should have to worry about whether or not they can afford health care or put food on the table.” TCDP: So where are unions going? The labor movement that we’re going to see down the road is much less bureaucratic. Continue Reading

Hastings medical workers begin two-day strike

Employees at Regina Medical Center walked off the job today, commencing a two-day strike to protest the hospital’s current contract proposal. The 230 employees, represented by Service Employees International Union Healthcare Minnesota, include nurses’ aids, custodial workers and x-ray technicians. The current three-year contract expired at the end of October, and there are no additional contract negotiations planned. Unlike most recent labor disputes, the chief stumbling block here isn’t healthcare coverage, but rather employee retirement accounts. “We are here to save our pensions,” said Jan Salo, who has sterilized surgical tools at the facility for 20 years, at a rally this afternoon in front of the facility in Hastings. Continue Reading