Mayo Clinic Methodist staff to picket for wage increases – Post Bulletin

ROCHESTER — Unionized staff members at Mayo Clinic Hospital’s Methodist campus held a press conference outside the hospital Thursday as SEIU Healthcare Minnesota & Iowa representatives and Mayo Clinic negotiate the employees’ wage increases for 2024.

“Our elected union bargaining team has now met twice with Mayo staff to bargain what is called a wage opener,” said Blythe Zempel, a patient care assistant and member of the bargaining team. “That will determine the wage increases for our group for the third year of our contract that covers nearly 600 workers.”

Those workers — sterile processing technicians, certified surgical technologists, patient escorts, patient care assistants, central service technicians and others working in linen, facilities and environmental services — are calling for a wage increase that considers inflation, Zempel said, and can potentially compete with wages for similar roles in the Twin Cities metro.

“We are fighting for a $20 minimum wage for all workers with partial wage increases across the bargaining unit for a handful of groups making over $20 to get wages closer to living wages to help address the staffing crisis facing many of these jobs,” Zempel said.

Hallie Wallace, an SEIU representative, said sterile processing technician jobs at health systems in the Twin Cities metro pay up to $3 an hour more than Mayo Clinic, which contributes to the hiring and retention issues. In previous meetings, Mayo Clinic management has proposed a 3% wage increase, the union members said.

“What they propose won’t address the staffing crisis that we’re facing,” said Taylor Buvlitz, a sterile processing technician. “We’re out here because we need them to be better. With our current workloads, we’re burning the candle at both ends.”

Staff retention was one of several issues voiced by the SEIU-affiliated surgical workers last year. In May 2023, they

delivered a petition

to hospital executives, seeking action on multiple complaints. Later that summer, SEIU said it would

file an unfair labor practice charge

against Mayo Clinic; the union alleges that Mayo Clinic management removed flyers, which had QR codes for the petition on them, that were posted in employee areas.

“That group that was fighting, calling attention to those issues, we still have some charges through the National Labor Relations Board that are still in process,” Wallace said. “But right now we’re focused, trying to funnel some of that into bargaining here to get what they need and, hopefully, get to a place where we can solve this.”

In the meantime, Wallace said the SEIU members will be holding an informational picket outside the Methodist campus on Jan. 31.

“We’re doing this for our patients, and we’re doing this for our families,” Zempel said. “Our work is part of making Mayo (the) amazing system it is, but people are feeling stretched to the point of breaking, and we need Mayo to step up.”

In a statement, Mayo Clinic said it has “an unwavering commitment to staff.”

“We are currently in contract discussions with employee groups represented by the SEIU on our Methodist campus and have been negotiating in good faith,” the statement continues. “We are optimistic we will reach a contract agreement acceptable to all parties and will continue working hard toward that end.”

SEIU Healthcare MN & IA Members Speak Out

Hallie Wallace, a representative from SEIU Healthcare Minnesota & Iowa, speaks to members of the media Thursday, Jan. 18, 2024, in Rochester.

Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

SEIU Healthcare MN & IA Members Speak Out

Blythe Zempel, a Mayo Clinic patient care assistant and SEIU Healthcare Minnesota & Iowa member, speaks to members of the media Thursday, Jan. 18, 2024, in Rochester.

Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

Dené K. Dryden

Dené K. Dryden is the Post Bulletin’s health reporter. She’s a Kansas expat who moved to Minnesota in 2020 and joined the Post Bulletin in 2022. Readers can reach Dené at 507-281-7488 and [email protected].