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SEIU, Mayo Clinic will see judge after Albert Lea strike

March 29, 2018 GMT

The National Labor Relations Board has scheduled a public hearing in front of an administrative law judge to litigate the ongoing dispute between Mayo Clinic and SEIU Healthcare Minnesota.

That decision was announced Tuesday by Jennifer Hadsall, regional director of the NLRB, following SEIU’s formal complaint of unfair labor practices which claims that union workers were locked out of Mayo’s Albert Lea campus over Christmas following the first strike ever in Mayo’s history.

The hearing has been scheduled for July 30 in Minneapolis.

SEIU issued a press release this morning declaring that their complaint was found to have merit, while further noting that Mayo’s own unfair labor practices complaint against SEIU was dismissed weeks ago; Mayo is appealing that decision to NLRB’s office in Washington, D.C.

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Mayo spokeswoman Ginger Plumbo called SEIU’s statement “deliberately misleading.”

“Last year, a similar hearing before an Administrative Law Judge resulted in all the union’s claims being dismissed, and a ruling that Mayo has continually negotiated in good faith,” Plumbo said. “We anticipate a similar outcome in this situation.”

SEIU President Jamie Gulley said this morning that NLRB officials spent months investigating the union’s allegations before scheduling the legal hearing. Mayo has claimed that replacement workers were legally required to be hired for a full week following the union’s one-day strike, but Gulley says Mayo employees signed sworn affidavits saying that only a handful of workers were actually brought in and most quit before the week was over.

“(It) was never about ‘safe patient care,’ like Mayo said, but about punishing workers who stood up to Mayo executives in the fight for good jobs and quality rural health care,” Gulley said. “This behavior from Mayo executives, putting profits and their own power over basic respect for people in the community, is at the heart of why workers had to stand up and fight for good jobs and quality rural health care.”

SEIU’s skilled maintenance bargaining group in Albert Lea has been working without a contract since the last one expired on Sept. 30, 2015. The general bargaining group in Albert Lea has been without a new deal since Nov. 30, 2016.

The union is arguing that Mayo has engaged in bad faith bargaining, refused to provide requested information and forcing employees to work in dangerous situations due to reduced staffing levels.

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The Dec. 20 strike generated attention across the state as the latest escalation between Mayo and Albert Lea took center stage. Mayo announced in June 2017 that it would consolidate most inpatient services to Austin, which has prompted a backlash among local residents and some state lawmakers.,

Five of the six DFL governor candidates attended the Dec. 20 strike in support of union workers. First District Congressman Tim Walz was busy in Washington, D.C., that day, but he visited later that week and has been frequently engaged in the ongoing debate.

Gulley said he hopes the NLRB hearing this summer will be the next step toward winning back pay and forcing Mayo to negotiate in good faith. Veteran housekeeper Heather Olson, who participated in the Mayo strike, expressed frustration with the situation.

“Enough is enough,” Olson said. “It is time for Mayo to come to the table and actually negotiate with us, not just threaten to take away our benefits and then lock us out when we stand up for what is right. It was wrong then, and looks even worse with this news about news about their evidently illegal actions.”

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