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Mental health workers at Allina and M Health Fairview set three-day strike

Saint Paul Pioneer Press - 9/26/2022

More than 400 mental health workers at M Health Fairview and Allina Health facilities plan to strike for three days next week as part of a push for their first labor contract.

It will be the second work stoppage for members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare Minnesota and Iowa. Mental health workers held a one-day strike in May during Mental Health Awareness Month.

“It is frustrating that it is coming to this once again. Minnesota is facing a huge mental health crisis that impacts so many families,” said Dana Disbrow, a psychiatric associate at M Health Fairview. “We are fighting for safe staffing levels and a contract that helps us work to improve our industry, but we keep running into dead ends from the employer.”

Workers voted to unionize in late 2021 and 98 percent of the group vote to support the three-day strike.

In a statement, Allina Health officials noted it was not unusual it to take a year or more to come to an agreement on first contracts. Officials said they offered competitive pay and safety protections that other workers have agreed to.

“We have negotiated in good faith with the union 18 times since they chose to unionize,” the Allina statement said. “Striking does not benefit anyone. However, we will be prepared to continue caring for our community in the event a settlement is not reached.”

There is one date set for negotiations before the strike, which is scheduled to begin Monday, Oct. 3.

“We know that our staff are facing levels of demand for mental health care never before seen,” M Health Fairview officials said in a statement. “We will continue to bargain in good faith with our colleagues to settle on a contract all parties believe is equal and fair.”

The SEIU Healthcare strike follows a three-day strike that began Sept. 12 by 15,000 nurses with the Minnesota Nurses Association. Nurses said their work stoppage was believed to be the largest private-sector nurses strike in history.

Nurses and mental health workers are pushing for similar improvements in their working conditions, including more staff. Nurses at 15 hospitals in the Twin Cities and Twin Ports continue to negotiate with management, but have not reached an agreement.

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