A day after a one-day ULP strike at the Albert Lea Mayo Clinic in December 2017, workers learned they would be locked out. The seven-day lockout included Christmas. Locked out workers took their energy to the picket line joined by elected officials, union and community supporters.
Wednesday the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 18 ruled in favor of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota. The union had claimed that Mayo illegally locked workers out. The basis of the union’s charge is tied to Mayo’s claim that they locked out over over 80 workers because they needed to 'honor contracts' for replacement workers. SEIU claims that instead, Mayo hired only a handful of workers— most of whom quit before the week was over. The result was that essential work was left undone.
The one-day strike was the first in Mayo’s history. The resulting “Christmas Lockout” was the first time that healthcare workers had been locked out at Mayo in Minnesota's history.
12-year Mayo Housekeeper Heather Olson was one of the locked out workers. Olson expressed frustration at Mayo for their continued mistreatment of Albert Lea families.
"In December, with our one-day strike after a year of Mayo refusing to negotiate in good faith, we took a unified stand for what we know is right: good jobs for dedicated employees and quality healthcare for rural Minnesota. It was incredibly frustrating to be locked out over Christmas, and it is even more maddening in light of this news. Workers with decades of service to Mayo and our patients deserve better. Our whole community deserves better," said Olson. "Enough is enough. It is time for Mayo to come to the table and actually negotiate with us, not just threaten to take away our benefits and then lock us out when we stand up for what is right. It was wrong then, and looks even worse with this news about news about their evidently illegal actions."
SEIU Healthcare Minnesota President Jamie Gulley expressed criticism over Mayo's priorities and the adverse effect they are having on the community of Albert Lea.
"We are pleased that Region 18 of the NLRB agrees with the union that Mayo's Christmas lockout was never about 'safe patient care,' like Mayo said, but about punishing workers who stood up to Mayo executives in the fight for good jobs and quality rural healthcare. This behavior from Mayo executives, putting profits and their own power over basic respect for people in the community, is at the heart of why workers had to stand up and fight for good jobs and quality rural healthcare. Mayo used to stand for something. It is hard to see their actions over the last two years and associate them with anything other than greed. The Albert Lea community deserves better than this," said Gulley. "We hope that this case will finally be a wake-up call to Mayo to do what is right and show respect to their workers, patients and community."
In addition to finding that Mayo illegally locked out employees, Region 18 of the NLRB also found Mayo has engaged in 'bad faith' bargaining with employees who have been without contracts for over a year, has failed to bargain about safe staffing levels and has refused to provide necessary information to the Union as required during bargaining.
The rulings came just weeks after NLRB charges Mayo filed against SEIU were dismissed.
If Mayo doesn't settle the complaint now being prosecuted by NLRB attorneys, the next step will be a hearing before an administrative law judge of the NLRB, where all of the workers who were illegally locked out could possibly win back pay. The hearing is scheduled for July 30th 1 p.m. at the NLRB’s offices.