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Mayo Clinic's food fight finally over

SEIU Healthcare Minnesota announced Tuesday that union members across the state voted "overwhelmingly" to approve a new contract with Morrison Healthcare, the highly regarded Georgia-based vendor Mayo Clinic selected in June 2016 as part of...

The food service fight at Mayo Clinic is officially over.

SEIU Healthcare Minnesota announced Tuesday that union members across the state voted "overwhelmingly" to approve a new contract with Morrison Healthcare, the highly regarded Georgia-based vendor Mayo Clinic selected in June 2016 as part of controversial outsourcing plans.

Details of the vote were not made public, but SEIU had touted the terms as favorable last week before union members in Rochester, Albert Lea, Faribault, Mankato and Fairmont cast their ballots.

SEIU's announcement of the new contract again declares it won what's been a contentious 12-month dialogue with Mayo brass about transition plans. While Mayo has explained its decision by pointing to an internal study that showed lagging patient satisfaction scores, the changes sparked two pickets outside Mayo's Rochester campus, criticism from state and local elected officials, and backlash from local union members.

The new five-year contract approved this week provides pay raises of up to 42 percent, full health insurance plans for full-time and part-time employees and increased paid-time off, among other things.

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"We hope this win shows all Mayo employees that by standing together positive changes can happen," said John Predmore, a 16-year food service worker in Rochester who joined SEIU last fall with other former Sodexo employees. "We demanded respect and it feels good to know that we have a strong contract going forward.

"We finally have some peace of mind around insurance, time off, retirement and wages. It's a weight off our shoulders. It is good to know we are part of a union that will help watch our back. Like everyone who works to make sure Mayo provides a great experience for our patients, we know we have value no matter who signs our paycheck."

Mayo declined comment when the tentative agreement was announced last week, but issued a brief statement Tuesday after the contract was finalized.

"Our focus remains on ensuring that Mayo patients and visitors receive the best possible food service experience, and we continue to work closely with Morrison on a seamless transition for employees, patients and visitors," Mayo spokeswoman Ginger Plumbo said. "We cannot comment on the terms of the deal between Morrison Healthcare and the unions that represent Morrison food service workers at Mayo Clinic, as we were not involved in the negotiations between Morrison and its employees and have not seen the agreement."

Morrison currently serves more than 650 hospitals and health-care systems in nearly 2,000 locations across the United States. It was recently included in Modern Healthcare's 2017 list of "Best Places to Work in Healthcare," among other recognition for excellence in recent years.

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