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Pickets at Mayo Clinic-Albert Lea 'willing to fight'

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Dozens of people gathered outside Mayo Clinic Health System - Albert Lea on Monday in support of the facility's maintenance workers. Mayo and the workers have failed to reach a contract after 10 negotiating sessions.
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ALBERT LEA — Dozens of pickets attended Monday's protest outside Mayo Clinic Health System-Albert Lea in the ongoing contract dispute involving the facility's maintenance workers.

The two sides have engaged in 10 negotiating sessions over the past seven months, but Henry Tews, a 26-year maintenance veteran, says the second picket shows SEIU Healthcare Minnesota is "willing to fight" over what's been characterized as "proposed language that takes away the voice of longtime workers." The first picket was held in November and drew more than 100 people.

Others who showed up to support the SEIU union workers included some members of the Minnesota Nurses Association, AFSCME Council 65, Albert Lea Education Association, Southeast Area Labor Council and the Minnesota AFL-CIO, according to a news release. Albert Lea's maintenance workers are the first SEIU unit to engage in bargaining with Mayo Clinic this round.

"Like our last picket, we are here today to show that we are willing to fight for what is right for Albert Lea," Tews said. "Having a safe, well-run hospital is important to patients, and having decent jobs in our community is important to everyone in and around Albert Lea. That is why other hospital employees are out here and have been wearing stickers in support of our fight, because we know that our fight is just the first if we don't stop them from taking us backwards.

"We are ready to sit down at the bargaining table and reach an agreement with the hospital so we can continue to provide the service needed to make our hospital great." Tews said. "Unfortunately, Mayo executives won't budge on their offer."

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The sticking point, according to Mayo Clinic, is not the salary or benefits being offered at the bargaining table. Instead, it's proposed language that says Mayo retains the right to alter benefits.

Mayo contends that same the same language is "enjoyed by virtually all other allied health employees across Mayo Clinic Health System" and that the Albert Lea maintenance workers are seeking "special terms just for their group."

"Benefit changes are not something that the organization takes lightly as changes in benefits would impact all allied health employees across the Mayo Clinic enterprise," said Dr. Mark Ciota, CEO of Mayo Clinic Health System–Albert Lea and Austin. "Our Albert Lea maintenance engineers are valued employees and we'd like them to receive the same benefits that their co-workers receive.

"We continue to meet with the SEIU in good faith with hopes of reaching a contract agreement acceptable to all parties," Ciota said in an email statement. "We are committed to ensuring our patients receive the safest and highest quality health care."

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