AMC clinic workers ;br; look for union label

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 10, 1999

Workers at the Austin Medical Center – a part of Mayo Health System clinic have voted to be unionized by a 2-1 ratio.

Friday, September 10, 1999

Workers at the Austin Medical Center – a part of Mayo Health System clinic have voted to be unionized by a 2-1 ratio.

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An election was held Thursday by the National Labor Relations Board. The final tally was 42 "yes" votes for union representation and 20 "no" votes. Three eligible workers did not vote.

Thus, the workers will be represented by the Paper Allied-Chemical and Energy Workers International Union, Local 7-578.

"This was a tremendous victory for the workers," said Larry Kelly, the PACE local’s business agent. "The next step is for the union members to discuss contract proposals. This is their contract and they will do that."

Kelly expected the union membership to be prepared to go to their employer within the next 30 days with their first contract proposal. Kelly said of the AMC-Mayo Health System workers’ decision, "I’m looking forward to working with the employer as we move forward."

Dr. Tim Johnson, president of AMC – Mayo Health System, said, in a press release, "Austin Medical Center values all our employees, who we feel provide the best quality health care possible for our patients. We believe that employees and management can maintain a good working relationship and solve work-related problems by working directly with one another. However, we respect the employees’ right to choose their working relationship with us and we will abide by the employees’ choice.

"As always, our foremost goal is to provide high-quality, compassionate care for our patients and to provide employees with their resources and environment they need to provide that care," the statement concluded.

The new bargaining unit includes full-time and regular part-time clinic nurses, regional location nurses, medical assistants and wing assistants. They are employed by AMC-Mayo Health System at Austin, Adams, Blooming Prairie, Grand Meadow and LeRoy.

Union organizers were forced to ask for the NLRB’s intervention when the employer refused to recognize them as a new bargaining unit.

Talks broke off over disagreements over unspecified workplace issues and both sides commenced campaigns.

AMC-Mayo Health System retained the services of the Dorsey and Whitney law firm of Minneapolis and began a series of mandatory meetings for the affected workers to argue against unionization.

In addition, a regular newsletter was circulated by the employer pointing out the differences between being represented by a union or having no representation at all.

One of the allegations made by the employer was that the patient, nurse, doctor relationship could be adversely affected.

Kelly countered with the union’s own newsletter disputing the employer’s allegations.

This marks the fourth bargaining unit to be recognized at the combination clinic and hospital operation based in Austin.

PACE’s membership not totals over 700 workers, mainly in health-care related occupations in the area. The other recent addition to the union-fold includes workers at The Cedars of Austin and Kelly said the employer and union workers are "very close" to their first-ever contract.