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Workers authorize strike at 8 Twin Cities hospitals

  • May 15, 2012 - 8:53 PM

Workers at eight Twin Cities hospitals could be off their jobs later this month in a temporary strike over a new contract.

A measure authorizing a two- to five-day strike by the union representing 3,500 nursing assistants, technicians and support staff was supported by 91 percent of those voting on Monday and Tuesday. The Service Employees International Union Healthcare Minnesota represents workers at Bethesda, Fairview Riverside, Fairview Southdale, Methodist, St. John's, North Memorial and Children Hospitals in Minneapolis and Children's Hospital in St. Paul.

The union is required to give 10 days' notice before striking.

In a news release that said neither the union nor its members would make any additional remarks as they head back into negotiations Wednesday, Tee McClenty, executive vice president of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, said "The vote speaks for itself."

Jeremiah Whitten, a spokesman for the eight hospitals affected by the union contract, called the vote disappointing. "But we remain optimistic that we can reach a fair settlement and are looking forward to resuming the talks."

The strike vote was intended to send a message before the next round of contract talks. The two sides have been negotiating since January, and their contract -- which has been extended several times -- is set to expire Wednesday.

The union says wages and benefits are at the heart of the standoff, including a proposal by the hospitals that would increase workers' out-of-pocket costs for health insurance.

Whitten pointed out the strike vote won't affect physicians and registered nurses. "So if a strike were to occur, people can still see their regular doctors and nurses," he said.

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