Union members working at HealthPartners approve strike

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Service Employees International Union (SEIU) members who work for HealthPartners in the Twin Cities have approved to stage a strike.

The announcement comes after 95 percent of union members voted Thursday to strike.

The union members will file a 10-day notice to strike with HealthPartners, with the strike beginning as early as Feb. 19.

Hundreds of healthcare workers in Minnesota voting on possible strike

A release from the union cites cuts and cost-shifting measures to "the health benefits caregivers have won over the years," as the reason for the strike.

"I have mixed feelings about this… I am happy to stand with my fellow brothers and sisters to fight for our benefits and a wage increase, and sad as a 31-year employee and ninth team bargaining member, that this is the worst, most disrespectful negotiations I have seen," said elected vice president of SEIU and licensed practical nurse at HealthPartners for 31 years, Kate Lynch.

SEIU represents 1,800 members at HealthPartners in Minnesota. The members include nurses, dental and nursing assistants, nurse practitioners and midwives.

HealthPartners is one of the largest health care providers in the state.

"We are here for our patients," said Clara Boykin, a 30-year Health Partners employee and part of the bargaining team. "We are here for each other. And each and every day, our patients come into our buildings so we can give them award-winning health care that they deserve. We deserve respect."

HealthPartners issued the following statement regarding the development:

Today’s vote announcement is disappointing. We value our SEIU-represented colleagues and are grateful for the work they do to help improve the health and well-being of our patients. That’s why the proposal we put forth would ensure they maintain market-leading benefits.

The modest changes we proposed to their health plan would support better health and encourage our colleagues to get care in high-quality, more affordable settings. We believe this is a fair and reasonable proposal, especially given the financial headwinds facing the health care industry.

A federal mediator has been part of the negotiating process, and it will be up to the mediator to call both parties back to the table. We remain committed to reaching an agreement on a new contract that is fair to all.

Additionally, HealthPartners issued a statement to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, stating, "Patients are a top priority and we have a plan in place to ensure they continue to receive high-quality care."