HCMC Workers Protest for Fair Contract, Safe Workplace

About 300 AFSCME members protested outside a new Hennepin Healthcare facility including January Evans of Local 2474.
About 300 AFSCME members protested outside a new Hennepin Healthcare facility including January Evans of Local 2474.

About 300 AFSCME Council 5 members picketed a new HCMC clinic Saturday, March 17, pushing management to offer a fair contract and a safe workplace.

Chanting “You built this building on our backs, we just want a fair contract,” workers and their children in AFSCME green stocking caps and T-shirts packed the sidewalk for the entire block in front of the new Hennepin Healthcare Clinic & Specialty Center. Locals 977 and 2474 were joined by several other AFSCME locals.

IB ImageAfter spending more than $220 million on the new Specialty Center, HCMC management is proposing to cut benefits and wages of its lowest-paid staff. CEO Jon Pryor wants to replace Local 977 and Local 2474’s excellent dental plan with a lesser company plan and cut performance raises by half. The tiny across-the-board raises he’s offering won’t keep up with the cost of living. 

IB Image“They don’t treat us workers with the dignity and respect we deserve,” says Local 977 president Carmen Brown. “But they want to keep taking and profiting from us and not giving back to the people who make this happen. 

“We’re not asking for a lot,” Brown says. “We’re not asking for the world. We’re just asking for a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.”

IB ImageWhile the healthcare system is expanding rapidly and spending big bucks to rebrand from HCMC to Hennepin Healthcare, it’s offering members of Local 977 just 1.5 percent the first year, nothing the second year and a wage reopener the third, Brown says. Local 2474 isn’t faring much better, with offers of 1.5 percent a year, president Sara Franck says. The health care system also is refusing to make needed language changes for Local 977.

The workers in Locals 977 and 2474 are in jobs that range from housekeeping and clerical work to medical assistance and mental health. They are the frontline workers who have the most patient contact. Workers point out that CEO Jon Pryor makes more in three weeks than they make in a year.

“It is horrible,” says Local 2474 president Sara Franck. “They are totally about their pocketbooks. This brand new, fancy building is not going to be built on our backs. This is not going to be our raise. We deserve a fair contract and a fair wage. We make this building happen.”

IB ImageFranck points out that workers deal with high-risk patients. Last year, there were 359 assaults and 742 incidents of workplace violence including threats.

“We love this work,” she says. “This is what we want to do. But they need to compensate us fairly for it because that is a risk we take every day walking into this facility.”

Workers say HCMC has brought up to 22 salaried higher-ups into negotiations against six workers. At the same time, HCMC is telling these workers/AFSCME members it will only pay them for four hours of negotiations, even though the healthcare system has paid wages during past negotiations.

Workers already went through significant and unfair layoffs just a year ago. Staffing shortages persist.