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Minnesota: 345 workers at Unity Hospital unite and form union

By staff |
August 3, 2015
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Fridley, MN - On July 14, 345 Hospital Workers at Unity Hospital in Fridley, a first ring suburb of Minneapolis, voted by a roughly 60% majority to join SEIU Healthcare MN. The new bargaining unit includes Nursing Assistants, Dietary Aides, Patient Care Techs, Health Unit Coordinators, Environmental Services Aides and other job classes.

The courageous workers endured and defeated intense resistance from management. Immediately upon hearing that workers were signing cards to authorize an election for union representation, the president of the hospital violated the law and attempted to stop them by telling them they were not allowed to talk about the union on work time and by publicly interrogating organizing committee members about their protected union activity in front of their coworkers.

The boss hired a premier union-busting attorney and lied in newsletters repeatedly to the hospital workers. They even claimed that not voting at all is counted as a yes vote in an attempt to dissuade yes voters from having their voice heard.

When none of these tactics worked management began an individually tailored campaign to pick workers off one by one. They threatened to lay employees off if the union went through. It was clear that management was going to try any dishonest and often illegal thing they could to stop these workers from having their voices heard.

The good news is that these workers had built a powerful committee and strong support among their coworkers. It was widely understood that the union meant the workers got to have more of the power and management less, and that that was why management was trying so hard to stop them. Workers at Unity Hospital were well prepared to take on the boss and help their coworkers see that management’s interests in this decision were in direct conflict with their own.

When asked about the campaign, nursing assistant Tanya Logacs said, “Care giving is getting tougher but management only considers the total number of patients when setting staffing ratios, not the acuity of care needed. This has led to many more employee injuries and staffs are being burnt out. By voting to form a union we showed that the employees do count and were going to look out for patients’ safety and our own safety.”

In the end this powerful group of workers won overwhelmingly and has built the kind of united union that can move forward and continue the fight as they go into bargaining their first contract.

This election was ten years in the making for several pro-union workers including Health Unit Coordinator Kathy Sodman, who said, “As a long time employee I always have hoped that Unity management was as dedicated to my future as I am to Unity’s. But, the reality is that management views us as easily expendable even through all my years of hard work. I’ve been part of previous attempts to organize a union at Unity and today we finally succeeded, and we will be heard!”