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SEIU plans second picket outside Mayo Clinic

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SEIU members and supporters picket in front of Saint Mary's Hospital on Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016, protesting Mayo Clinic's plan to subcontract food service employees in Rochester.
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The union representing Mayo Clinic food service workers in a dispute over Mayo's proposed vendor switch has announced a second picket to be held outside the clinic's downtown campus on Friday afternoon.

Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare Minnesota will hold the 3 p.m. picket on the sidewalk in front of the Gonda Building on Second Avenue Southwest, between Center Street and Peace Plaza.

The first picket was held Aug. 24 and drew hundreds of supporters outside of Saint Marys Hospital, including Rochester City Council member Michael Wojcik and several prominent DFL legislators, including House Deputy Minority Leader Erin Murphy, St. Paul Rep. Tim Mahoney and Rochester Rep. Tina Liebling.

The protests address Mayo Clinic's announcement in late June that it will outsource its food service department to Atlanta-based Morrison Healthcare . Non-union workers have been promised identical salaries in the transition, but 700 members of SEIU in Minnesota, including 350 in Rochester, have been given no such assurances, according to the union.

SEIU has projected that its Rochester workforce will take a $4 million hit in reduced wages and increased health care costs in the move to Morrison, expected to take place over the next 12 to 18 months. Mayo disputes that figure.

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"With so much important info still up in the air, namely what Mayo's plans will mean for the 700 food service workers and their families, how they came to this plan and whether it could impact Medicare for seniors in the community, we will be holding another informational picket ahead of bargaining sessions next week," SEIU President Jamie Gulley said of Friday's plans. "The calls are getting louder and louder for Mayo to reconsider this controversial decision, and we hope they will start to hear all the voices calling for what is best for patients, dedicated food service workers and the whole Rochester community."

Jeffrey Bolton, Mayo's vice president of administration, has criticized SEIU for spreading "a significant amount of misinformation" regarding the vendor switch. Mayo has pushed back by saying the decision was made after two years of internal study that determined patient satisfaction levels with food service was under 50 percent.

The final bargaining session to resolve the labor dispute is scheduled for Sept. 19-20 in Rochester, but Mayo has cut back internal services due, in part, to staffing shortages in the food service department. As of last week, weekend service has been scaled back at staff cafeterias at Saint Marys and Methodist hospitals.

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SEIU members and supporters picket in front of Saint Mary's Hospital on Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016, protesting Mayo Clinic's plan to subcontract food service employees in Rochester.

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