Nurses vote to get rid of union at Mayo Clinic’s Mankato hospital

By: - July 25, 2022 10:59 pm

Hundreds of nurses at the Mayo Clinic’s Mankato hospital will vote on July 25 on whether to keep their union or dissolve it. Photo by Max Nesterak/Minnesota Reformer.

Nurses at the Mayo Clinic’s Mankato hospital voted 213 to 181 to decertify their union on Monday in a significant blow to Minnesota’s powerful nurses’ union, and a victory for anti-union activists who have focused their efforts on health care workers.

The decision to sever ties with the Minnesota Nurses Association, which represents about 22,000 nurses, comes more than seven decades after nurses first unionized the Mankato hospital, long before it was taken over by the Mayo Clinic.

The effort was backed by the National Right to Work Foundation, a conservative nonprofit whose mission is to “eliminate coercive union power and compulsory unionism,” which elicited accusations from union supporters of outside interference.

Tammie Fromm, an operating room nurse at the Mayo Mankato hospital, decried the result in a statement shared through the union.

“The removal of the union marks another sad step in the corporatization of community health care in southern Minnesota, following moves by Mayo Clinic to close and consolidate services in other communities in recent years while their CEO makes millions,” Fromm wrote.

The decision to decertify the union cuts against a surge in labor activity in recent years, with workers in coffee shops, hospitals and warehouses seeking to form new unions in record numbers.

Yet the National Right to Work Foundation has notched a number of successes in helping workers petition for decertification elections, which requires collecting signatures from at least 30% of workers.

The foundation backed an effort in Massachusetts to dissolve the nurses union at a hospital in Worcester, which ultimately failed. The group has also recently helped nurses in Maine and clerical workers at health care facilities in northern Minnesota file for elections to get rid of their unions.

The petition for a union election at the Mankato hospital was submitted by nurse Brittany Burgess, who as part of the decertification campaign invited some nurses to the mansion of her stepfather, Republican billionaire Glen Taylor.

Burgess said she is excited to no longer be tied for the Minnesota Nurses Association, which she described as a divisive force in the hospital.

“We work for the top healthcare organization in the world, yet we were continuously being told to not trust our leaders or those that expressed varying opinions from our union representation,” Burgess wrote in a text message. “MNA did little to advance their mission within our community and hear our voices to promote the types of change we need in order to help recruit, retain, and align our practice to better care for our patients.”

In a statement, National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix celebrated the vote.

“We are proud to have helped Mayo Clinic nurses exercise their right to free themselves of an unwanted union. MNA union bosses should respect the result of the nurses’ vote and its clear rejection of their so-called ‘representation,'” he said.

The vote to dissolve the union roughly halves the Mayo Clinic’s small share of unionized nurses. The Mayo Clinic employs some 22,000 nurses across the country, of which only about a thousand were unionized, including the nurses in Mankato.

A spokeswoman for the Mayo Clinic said in a statement: “This is a staff-led effort, and we are grateful for the confidence our nursing staff has in Mayo Clinic Health System. We look forward to working with them directly.”

*This story has been updated with comment from Brittany Burgess and the National Right to Work Foundation.

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Max Nesterak
Max Nesterak

Max Nesterak is the deputy editor of the Reformer and reports on labor and housing. Previously, he was an associate producer for Minnesota Public Radio after a stint at NPR. He also co-founded the Behavioral Scientist and was a Fulbright Scholar to Berlin, Germany.