Members of a hospital workers union have voted "overwhelmingly" to ratify a new three-year contract with eight Twin Cities hospitals, union officials said on Wednesday.

The vote, by members of the Service Employees International Union Healthcare Minnesota, came just over a week after the union had threatened a two- to five-day strike as its contract was set to expire. The two sides reached a tentative agreement last Wednesday.

The union did not release vote totals but said the turnout was high during the two days of voting on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Lead union negotiator Tee McClenty said the new contract includes a wage increase as well as the first pension increase in six years. She would not release the exact details until she had a chance to "brief the leadership."

She also said the union had successfully fought off concessions that the hospitals had sought, including a change in overtime rules and health insurance plans that could have cost members thousands of dollars. "They were able to retain what they had," she said.

Jeremiah Whitten, a spokesman for the hospitals, said, "We're very pleased that the contract has been approved." He said the agreement met the union's needs while also demonstrating "sound financial stewardship" by the hospitals.

The union represents nursing assistants, emergency room technicians, food service and other support staff at Bethesda, St. John's, Methodist, North Memorial, Fairview Southdale, Fairview Riverside and two Children's hospitals.

Maura Lerner • 612-673-7384