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Albert Lea nurses approve new Mayo contract

ALBERT LEA — Mayo Clinic Health System announced Thursday that it has reached a new three-year contract with Albert Lea nurses represented by the Minnesota Nurses Association.

The tentative contract agreement was reached June 21, and the 126 union nurses voted to ratify the contract on July 5.

MNA spokesman Rick Fuentes said Albert Lea's nurses will be paid the same as their counterparts in Austin by the second year of the three-year contact. Specifically, that includes a 2 percent increase in the first year.

The new contract settles one of three outstanding issues Mayo officials have been facing in Albert Lea. The MNA highlighted the troubles in a written comment.

"While they're pleased to have a new contract, they are very concerned about the impact of losing the full service hospital in Albert Lea," Kathy Sandvik, MNA Labor Representative for Albert Lea and Austin nurses, said of its members. "The entire community as well as all of the staff there will be affected by the loss. Not just will patients lose the quality care that Albert Lea nurses have provided, but the loss of dozens of jobs will mean displacements, transfers, and heartache for Albert Lea nurses and the community itself."

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Mayo emphasized its commitment to the two communities in its statement announcing the new nurses contract.

"We welcome the opportunity to work with our dedicated nurses to develop solutions that strengthen our Albert Lea and Austin campuses and secure high-quality care for our patients, now and in the future," Mayo spokeswoman Mandie Siems said in a press release. "Nurses are valued members of our care teams, and we are pleased that both bargaining units approved agreements with the medical center so we can all work together on behalf of our patients."

On June 12, MCHS announced that it would be consolidating its Albert Lea and Austin campuses to create efficiencies, with some inpatient services being relocated to Austin. The Freeborn County Board has roundly criticized that decision and nearly 750 people packed Albert Lea High School last week to express their displeasure during a public forum attended by Mayo's leadership. MNA has also been critical of Mayo's transition plans in Albert Lea.

Additionally, SEIU Healthcare Minnesota's complaint that Mayo has not been bargaining in good faith with its maintenance staff in Albert Lea is currently awaiting a final decision from the National Labor Relations Board; those workers have been working without a contract since 2015. Their complaint was previously found to have merit and is the first Mayo labor dispute to be argued in front of the national NLRB in Washington.

SEIU President Jamie Gulley claimed "Mayo has lost its way" following the April hearing before the NLRB. Both sides await a final ruling.

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