The Potluck

1,800 HealthPartners workers vote in favor of week-long strike

By: - February 7, 2020 11:52 am
SEIU Healthcare Minnesota strike

HealthPartners health care workers in 2020 announcing a week-long strike in St. Paul. Photo by Max Nesterak/Minnesota Reformer.

The strike is on.

More than 1,800 nurses, physicians assistants and other health care workers at HealthPartners won’t show up for work at some 30 clinics across the Twin Cities Feb. 19 unless a deal is reached before then.

Workers, represented by SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, announced they filed a 10-day strike notice Friday morning in front of HealthPartners’ Neuroscience Center in St. Paul. They reported 95% of voting members voted in favor of the week-long strike

“This is the worst, most disrespectful negotiations I have seen,” said Jean Pharr, a registered nurse at HealthPartners and member of the bargaining team. “I have been proud to work for this employer for 31 years because of the excellent patient care and respect they give their employees. And now it feels like it’s profits over patients and employees.”

HealthPartners, a health care provider and insurer employing over 26,000 people, issued a statement shortly after the press conference calling the strike vote disappointing.

“The modest changes we proposed to their health plan would support better health and encourage our colleagues to get care in high-quality, more affordable settings. We believe this is a fair and reasonable proposal, especially given the financial headwinds facing the health care industry,” the statement read.

HealthPartners is proposing increases in co-pays for its health care workers. Under their current plan, most SEIU Healthcare Minnesota workers don’t pay monthly premiums and have very low co-pays. Before negotiations ended in the early hours of Saturday, February 1, HealthPartners had made concessions to its original proposal including backing down from a $100 monthly premium for spouses.

Representatives from two other unions with HealthPartners workers voiced their support of the strike at the press conference: OPEIU-12, representing some 1,200 clerical workers and SEIU 26, representing security and custodial staff.

Kelsie Anderson, a HealthPartners employee and OPEIU Local 12 vice president, said most of her colleagues will not cross the picket line*. That would affect HealthPartners’ ability to schedule appointments, send out bills and carry out other administrative work in both the health care and insurance sides of the non-profit.

“In the past we have always mirrored our contract on SEIU’s contract. We go into negotiations in the summer, so if (HealthPartners) is coming to the table slapping SEIU in the face, they’re going to come to the table and slap us in the face,” Anderson said.

*This story has been updated to clarify OPEIU’s strike status. They may honor the picket line and be absent from work but would not be striking themselves.

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Max Nesterak
Max Nesterak

Max Nesterak is the deputy editor of the Reformer and reports on labor and housing. Most recently 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.