St. Luke’s employees rally during contract negotiations

St. Luke’s employees rally during contract negotiations.
Published: Sep. 26, 2023 at 7:27 PM CDT
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DULUTH, MN. (Northern News Now) - St. Luke’s hospital technicians, represented by the United Steelworkers Union, are in the process of negotiating a new contract.

They rallied outside of the hospital on Tuesday in response to what they believe are unfair terms proposed by hospital leaders.

“What we’re asking for is nothing out of the normal,” said Michele Frederickson, a USW representative. “We want a fair contract which is going to give us fair wages so that we can retract and retain employees.”

With critical positions ranging from X-ray and surgical techs to ultrasounds, the frustrated employees say they continue to put the patients first.

“Everybody who was scheduled to work is still at work doing their job and giving the best patient care that we can and the ones that are off are here today,” said Tiffany Shaw a respiratory therapist at St. Luke’s.

The USW has been helping the 140 technicians negotiate new terms since May for the contract that ended on June 30.

Contracts are renewed every three years and they believe the newest proposal does not reflect their hard work since they last signed.

“During our pandemic, all of our employees, all of our health care workers stepped up to make sure that our patients were taken care of and we want to be recognized for that,” said Fredrickson.

For the St. Luke’s employees, proper recognition means increased wages and a better benefits package.

Until then, union reps say they believe a lack of competitive wages is driving potential employees elsewhere.

“They’re going to other facilities, they’re going to the cities and they’re making way more money than what we’re having in our area,” said Fredrickson. “We have to be able to draw people into the jobs and live in our community.”

The USW reps are hoping to reach some agreement Wednesday when both parties will have another negotiating session where they will be joined by a federal monitor.

In a response, St. Luke’s wrote that they informed the USW members that picketing on the property would be a violation of their bargaining agreement.

Since they did anyway, hospital leaders filed an unfair labor charge against the union.

St. Luke’s added they are looking forward to a productive negotiation session with the mediator on Wednesday.

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