Twin Cities hospital workers approve contract

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After nearly six months working without a contract, hospital workers Wednesday approved a negotiated settlement for a new, three-year agreement. The settlement comes after Twin Cities hospitals modified their previous contract offer after members of SEIU Local 113 decisively voted to reject it on Aug. 16.

“Affordable health care has been our issue from day one and this contract makes some improvements,” said Lori Theim-Busch, a Phlebotomy/EKG technician at North Memorial Medical Center. “But it doesn’t go far enough. And that is something we will continue to work for until health care is affordable for every hospital worker, and every Minnesotan.”

The settlement includes improvements in health care, including a joint committee on cost containment that will be dedicated to identifying and proposing changes to hospital health care plans to bring down costs for SEIU Local 113 members. The contract also includes a five percent increase in the employer contribution to health insurance premiums.

“While this contract is a step forward on health care, it does not meet the health care needs of hospital workers in the Twin Cities,” said Julie Schnell, president of SEIU Local 113. “Where Allina Hospitals & Clinics recognizes that providing good health care will result in improved quality care, these hospitals were unwilling to set a standard for providing affordable health care.”

Other improvements in the contract include a 19 percent increase in pension contributions. In addition, hospital workers will receive wage increases of four percent in each of the first two years and three percent in the third. The wage increases are retroactive to the contract expiration in March.

More than 3,300 Twin Cities hospital workers began working without a contract on March 10 after five hospital systems, including Fairview, North Memorial, HealthEast, Children’s and Methodist hospitals, proposed their “best and final” offer. SEIU Local 113 members presented a petition in April overwhelmingly rejecting that offer and the members rejected it a second time in vote on August 16.

“Health care is a problem now and it will be well into the future if we continue to fight these outdated battles with tired tactics,” said Schnell. “The only way we can fix this problem is by working together to figure out how to make health care more affordable. Hopefully, this contract sets the foundation for making that happen.”

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