One of Minnesota’s best-known companies and major employers – Mayo Clinic – is facing criticism for its plan to subcontract food service operations to an Atlanta-based conglomerate. Workers and community members have signed petitions objecting to the move at the same time that Mayo seeks millions in public dollars to support its “destination medical center.”
Mayo’s announcement one month ago that it planned to contract with Morrison Healthcare caught employees by surprise, the workers said. Some 600 employees across Minnesota will be affected, including about 350 in Rochester and others in Austin, Albert Lea, Mankato and Fairmont, according to their union, SEIU Healthcare Minnesota.
Many of the workers have decades of experience in their jobs. On Wednesday, the union took out an ad in the Rochester Post-Bulletin, highlighting six of the workers with tenures ranging from 36 to 43 years.
“If Mayo outsources dietary jobs, will the next generation making food for Mayo patients and staff be able to reach 40 years of service to the Rochester community?” they ask. The advertisement is the third placed by the union in recent weeks.
In announcing the change, Mayo said it “will allow us to deliver consistent and enhanced food and nutrition options to our patients, visitors and staff.” A spokesperson told the Post-Bulletin that workers “will all be offered jobs with Morrison at the same salary through a phased transition over the next 12 to 18 months.”
But that statement has not allayed fears among employees and community members. Many have signed a petition, launched by SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, that calls on the company to maintain its current food service operations so that “the city of Rochester is a safe and healthy place to live for everyone, not just the executives of Mayo.”
The controversy is garnering significant attention in local media. A recent Post-Bulletin article profiled Jane Peterson, who is in her eighth year as an overnight cook. She said some employees, feeling betrayed, have already sought out other jobs.
"When you work for such a big company, I felt secure and part of the family," said Peterson. "Not knowing if I'm going to see them again, it hurts."
Mayo Clinic is raising private investment that will enable it to tap $585 million in state and local government funds for the destination medical center, which the company says is necessary for it to compete nationally and internationally.
“The Mayo Clinic has been asking for tens of millions of dollars from the state with the pitch it will help bring ‘good jobs’ to Rochester, but now they are talking about moving hundreds of good jobs to a less stable sub-contractor to help increase their profits,” said Jamie Gulley, president of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota.
“Workers in these jobs provide essential services to patients at Mayo, helping to make Mayo a world renowned hospital. We are outraged they are even talking about such a controversial plan, and will be fighting it at every step …”