HealthPartners strike called off; tentative deal reached

    HealthPartners Bloomington
    Photo by Max Nesterak/Minnesota Reformer.

    At 3 a.m. on Tuesday, the union representing nurses, physician assistants and other health care workers at HealthPartners reached a tentative agreement on a new three-year contract, avoiding a weeklong strike that would have affected 30 clinics across the Twin Cities.

    Workers voted overwhelmingly earlier this month to strike to protect their generous health care benefits. HealthPartners had pushed for adding monthly premiums, increasing co-pays and adding a charge to cover spouses, but backed down from those proposals in its “classic” plan, which covers 67% of SEIU workers.

    In a news release, SEIU Healthcare Minnesota said the tentative agreement also includes wage increases of 7.5% over the next three years and maintains overtime pay provisions — workers earn overtime pay after 37.5 compensated hours — not after 40 worked hours as HealthPartners proposed.

    “We worked long and hard to stand up for the health benefits and wages our families deserve,” said Nancy Wickoren, a nurse at HealthPartners and member of the bargaining team, in the news release. “As in any negotiation, we didn’t get everything we wanted. But we are very proud of how our membership stood up together and fought back huge cuts and cost-shifts to healthcare and overtime pay that management had insisted on for months.”

    The roughly 1,800 workers in the union will review the tentative agreement and vote on it next week.

    The agreement bodes well for another 1,200 HealthPartners administrative workers represented by Office & Professional Employees International Union, who will negotiate a new three-year contract later this year. OPEIU’s contract is typically slightly less generous than SEIU Healthcare Minnesota.

    Their support during this negotiation added extra pressure on HealthPartners because they are not required to cross a picket line, meaning some 3,000 workers could have been absent from work during the strike.

    Representatives from HealthPartners and SEIU Healthcare Minnesota weren’t immediately available for comment.

    Max Nesterak
    Max Nesterak is a reporter for the Reformer focusing on labor and housing. Most recently he was associate producer for MPR’s Morning Edition after a stint at National Public Radio. He also co-founded the behavioralscientist.org and was a Fulbright Scholar to Berlin, Germany.