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Twin Cities mental health workers plan 3-day strike

MINNEAPOLIS -- Mental health workers with two Twin Cities health care providers plan to strike for three days early next month.

More than 400 workers with M Health Fairview and Allina Health say they have filed a 10-day notice for the brief strike, which would begin Oct. 3. The workers are part of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota & Iowa.

Representatives say the workers' primary concern is safe staffing levels.

"We are ready to strike because no one should worry about getting hurt at work," Dana Disbrow, a psychiatric associate at MHealth Fairview, said. "We are ready to strike because no one should have to worry if there will be enough workers if they need mental health support."

WCCO has reached out to M Health Fairview and Allina Health for comment. The latter issued the following statement:

"Allina Health values our employees and recognizes the critical services senior mental health coordinators provide to the community. We have negotiated in good faith with the union 18 times since they chose to unionize. It is typical for newly formed bargaining units to take more than a year, on average, to reach an agreement on their first contract. There are additional bargaining sessions this week and throughout October to enable the parties to reach an agreement and avoid a strike which did not advance our discussions in May when SEIU first took employees out on strike.

"Throughout negotiations, Allina Health has offered an economic package that provides competitive compensation and additional benefits. We have also offered the same language the union agreed to on behalf of other Allina Health employees regarding workplace safety. Striking does not benefit anyone. However, we will be prepared to continue caring for our community in the event a settlement is not reached."

And later on Monday, M Health Fairview issued the following statement: 

"We share the desire for our psych associates, senior psych associates, and behavioral assistants to work in an environment where they feel valued and supported. We have negotiated in good faith with the union for the last 9 months to align on a contract that supports our employees and provides us with the flexibility we need to provide top-quality care to our patients. We have made significant progress, including reaching 17 tentative agreements.

"Health care organizations across the country are in the middle of a dual staffing and mental health crisis. We know that our staff are facing levels of demand for mental health care never before seen. We will continue to bargain in good faith with our colleagues to settle on a contract all parties believe is equal and fair."

The workers also held a one-day strike in May.

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