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Food service workers picket in front of Mayo Clinic

Union workers who prepare and serve food on Mayo Clinic campuses are picketing in downtown Rochester today in response to difficult contract negotiations with their employer, Morrison Healthcare.

Food Service Workers Picket
Food service workers employed by Morrison Healthcare who work at various Mayo Clinic facilities take part in an "information picket" outside Mayo Clinic's Gonda Building on Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022, in downtown Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
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ROCHESTER — Thirty to 40 union workers who prepare and serve food on Mayo Clinic campuses picketed in downtown Rochester Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022, in response to difficult contract negotiations with their employer, Morrison Healthcare.

The 600 food service workers transitioned in 2017 from being Mayo Clinic employees to working for Georgia-based Morrison, which contracts with Mayo Clinic to provide food services. The five-year labor contract the unions signed in 2017 expired at the end of June.

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After approving an extension of the 2017 contract, Morrison and the Morrison Coalition of Unions started negotiating for a new labor contract.

The SEIU Healthcare Minnesota union, which represents 500 of the Morrison employees, organized the picket to raise awareness “of the employer’s proposals to completely overhaul healthcare benefits and other important contract provisions.”

Many vehicles driving by honked and waved generating cheers from the picketers. State Senate candidate Aleta Borrud also marched with the pickers to show her support. She is running as a Democrat against incumbent Sen. Carla Nelson.

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Abe Cuevas, a cook at Methodist Hospital for seven years, was one of the crowd that were carrying signs stating "More Work, Low Pay, No Way" and chanting "Treat your workers like you should."

"I took the step to be out here today to try to get a fair contract and to be fairly compensated for our work through the pandemic for the two years that we've been here. We put countless of overtime hours and picked up the slack for the company," said Cuevas. "Morrison is not respecting the work we do."

He added that in the past two years that he has worked four shifts of more than 100 hours due to Morrison being so shorthanded.

Morrison Healthcare issued a statement about the picket.

“Our hard-working team members are at the heart of what we do, and their determination to provide best-in-class care and service is inspiring. We take pride in paying competitive wages and providing affordable benefits, and we have a long history of listening to our employees and working productively with unions," wrote Morrison Healthcare Spokesperson Tom Hughes. "Within the past year, we have amicably renewed three union collective bargaining agreements within the Mayo Clinic system, including SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, and Teamsters Local 120. We will continue to uphold our agreement with the SEIU, AFSCME, and Teamsters Local 120, and we will continue to meet and negotiate - always in good faith.”

About 400 of the SEIU members work in Rochester at Mayo Clinic facilities as cooks, bakers, dietary aides, baristas, cashiers and sanitation workers. The remaining 100 SEIU members plus 100 workers represented by Teamsters 120 and AFSCME Council 65 also work for Morrison at regional Mayo Clinic campuses in Albert Lea, Mankato and Fairmont.

Mayo Clinic did comment on the planned picket, prior to its start.

"Both Mayo Clinic and Morrison staff may participate in advocacy on their own behalf, in accordance with their employers’ applicable policies," wrote Mayo Clinic Spokesperson Ginger Plumbo.

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The unions issued a statement prior to the picket.

“These essential, frontline healthcare workers are fighting for fair wage increases and a wage scale like other Union members have, an improved grievance procedure for dealing with disrespectful treatment by Morrison supervisors and a pension plan like they had before Mayo Clinic sub-contracted their work in a controversial decision five years ago,” according to the statement.

During the event, SEIU leader Jamie Gulley commented that it feels like Morrison is trying to "roll back" the gains that the group achieved in the 2017 contract in the wake of the transition from Mayo Clinic.

"We have union insurance, which is very important to us. It's better health insurance. It's something that's affordable. They want to switch that out for the Morrison health insurance, That's a big point of contention," he said. "Another item that we had in the first contract was a 401k plan, but it was understood that in the next round that we would get a union pension plan. So far, they've been hostile to that proposal."

Gulley added that wages were also a "sticking point" with Morrison offering a 5.5% raise over a period of three years.

"It's just a completely unacceptable proposal," he said.

The union negotiating team and Morrison have two scheduled meetings planned in September, where they will try to work out their differences with the help of a mediator.

Food Service Workers Picket
Food service workers employed by Morrison Healthcare who work at various Mayo Clinic facilities take part in an "information picket" outside Mayo Clinic on Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022, in downtown Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
Food Service Workers Picket
Picket signs for food service workers employed by Morrison Healthcare who work at various Mayo Clinic facilities to use during an "information picket" outside Mayo Clinic's Gonda Building on Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022, in downtown Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
Food Service Workers Picket
Food service workers employed by Morrison Healthcare who work at various Mayo Clinic facilities take part in an "information picket" outside Mayo Clinic Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022, in downtown Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
Food Service Workers Picket
Food service workers employed by Morrison Healthcare who work at various Mayo Clinic facilities take part in an "information picket" outside Mayo Clinic's Gonda Building on Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022, in downtown Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
Food Service Workers Picket
Food service workers employed by Morrison Healthcare who work at various Mayo Clinic facilities take part in an "information picket" outside Mayo Clinic's Gonda Building on Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022, in downtown Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
Food Service Workers Picket
Food service workers employed by Morrison Healthcare who work at various Mayo Clinic facilities take part in an "information picket" outside Mayo Clinic's Gonda Building on Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022, in downtown Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
Food Service Workers Picket
A Teamsters Local 120 truck drives by in support of food service workers employed by Morrison Healthcare who work at various Mayo Clinic facilities as they take part in an "information picket" outside Mayo Clinic on Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022, in downtown Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

Related Topics: MAYO CLINICWORKPLACE
Jeff Kiger writes a daily column, "Heard Around Rochester," in addition to writing articles about local businesses, Mayo Clinic, IBM, Hormel Foods, Crenlo and others. The opinions of my employer do not necessarily reflect my opinions. He has worked in Rochester for the Post Bulletin since 1999. Send tips to jkiger@postbulletin.com or via Twitter to @whereskiger . You can call him at 507-285-7798.
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