Hennepin County Medical Center workers celebrated Tuesday after reaching a settlement with HCMC management that was presented in Hennepin County District Court.
The workers, members of AFSCME Locals 977 and 2472, were seeking a temporary restraining order to stop the employer from continuing to commit unfair labor practices. On Tuesday, HCMC made a commitment in court to follow existing labor law.
The employer also agreed to reinstate two union leaders – Local 977 president Carmen Brown and steward Marlon Gaston – to their former positions.
The legal action followed the layoff of some 200 HCMC employees, which the workers said was “handled haphazardly.” Workers have been speaking out about the effect of the layoffs on HCMC, one of the state’s top medical facilities. Tuesday’s settlement does not resolve all the concerns.
“We’re going to hold the employer’s feet to the fire,” said Brown.
“We strive for excellence and take pride in our work,” said Sara Franck, president of Local 2474. “We treat every patient with kindness and respect. And we expect the same in return from our employer.”
The employer’s agreement to follow the law will be posted on union bulletin boards throughout the hospital and clinics. This public display is intended to help workers hold their employer accountable to the agreement.
“Much harm was done by the layoffs,” ASFCME said in a statement, saying the union “will use the grievance and arbitration procedure to make workers whole for the damages they suffered. Our goal is to force the employer to follow our union contract, which spells out a fair process for bumping, bidding and reassignments. The first arbitration hearing is scheduled for May 4.”
The brunt of the layoffs impacted older workers, mostly people of color, the union said. AFSCME will assist those individuals if they choose to file potential discrimination claims with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
A lawsuit remains before the court on behalf of Locals 977 and 2472 in regard to employer animus against the union.
The workers thanked their attorneys and hugged each other as they left the courtroom. They stood up together and said they will return to work more powerful than before.
“We got some justice today,” says Marlon Gaston, with a smile.