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Workers announce strike at 7 nursing homes in Twin Cities metro area

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Workers announce strike at 7 nursing homes in Twin Cities metro area

Feb 20, 2024 | 7:15 pm ET
By Max Nesterak
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Workers announce strike at 7 nursing homes in Twin Cities metro area
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Nursing home worker Teresa Brees speaks at a news conference on Feb. 20, 2024 announcing workers at seven nursing homes authorized a 24-hour unfair labor practices strike for March 5. Photo by Max Nesterak/Minnesota Reformer.

Over 600 unionized workers at seven nursing homes in the Twin Cities metro area could walk off the job for 24 hours on March 5 unless they reach a deal on new contracts that includes a $25 an hour minimum wage.

At a news conference outside Saint Therese Senior Living of New Hope, nursing home workers said they voted for the unfair labor practices strike because low pay and grueling shifts have forced many out of the field and pushed those who remain to a breaking point.

“Last year I worked 23 straight days. And unsurprisingly, I ended up tearing my biceps,” said Teresa Brees, a nursing home worker at The Estates of Roseville. “I know so many nursing home workers who face stress and injury because of overwork and understaffing.”

The workers, who are unionized with SEIU Healthcare Minnesota & Iowa and UFCW 663, said they are also seeking more affordable health insurance, a pension and higher staffing levels.

Workers at the following nursing homes voted to authorize a 24-hour unfair labor practices strike that could begin on March 5: 

  • Saint Therese of New Hope
  • Estates of Roseville
  • Estates of Fridley
  • Estates of Excelsior
  • Villas at Robbinsdale
  • Cedars at St. Louis Park
  • Cerenity Senior Care Humboldt in St. Paul

Representatives for Monarch Healthcare Management, Saint Therese and Cerenity Senior Care did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Nursing home workers suffer the highest rates of workplace injuries and illnesses of any industry — more than three times the rate of the labor force as a whole, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

At the same time, most nursing home workers in Minnesota don’t earn a basic living wage. Nearly half of nursing home workers make $20 per hour or less, and 80% make $25 an hour or less, according to a survey last year of 1,450 union and non-union workers by SEIU Healthcare Minnesota & Iowa.

Meanwhile, nursing home leaders say they’re operating on razor thin margins, relying on government funding through Medicaid and additional state grants. Last year, the Minnesota Legislature directed $300 million in grants to nursing homes to shore up their finances and increase worker retention. The Legislature also created a nation-leading labor standards board, which will have the power to set pay for nursing home workers across the state.

Strikes could ripple across the state at the beginning of March; nearly 15,000 workers having already authorized strikes or are about to. That includes workers at other nursing homes, St. Paul teachers and hourly school staff, Minneapolis public works employees and thousands of janitors and security guards in high rise office buildings and big box stores.

The potentially large strike across industries is more than 10 years in the making — union leaders coordinated labor contracts to expire around the same time.

“Workers are fed up. And that’s why we’re standing up and saying enough is enough,” said Jamie Gulley, president of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota & Iowa. “We are ready to strike.”