Food service workers at Mayo picketing for better wages

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(ABC 6 News) – An informational picket took place outside Mayo Clinic in Rochester Thursday afternoon.

The employees taking part in this picket are food service workers at Mayo Clinic but they are employed by Morrison Healthcare. They said they are fighting for fair wage increases and a wage scale like other union members have.

Up until about five years ago, these workers were employed by Mayo Clinic, but Mayo began subcontracting these jobs out to Morrison Healthcare.

The workers are part of the Morrison Coalition of Unions which includes 500 Service Employees International Union (SEIU) workers along with an additional 100 members from other labor unions such as Teamsters 120. They said they are not earning a livable wage because of inflation.

“I gotta live. I’m not going to go anywhere else. I gotta live. I gotta work for a living,” Abraham Cuevas, a cook for Morrison Healthcare, said. “I’m living paycheck to paycheck and with inflation and the economy right now, it’s getting up there and it’s hurting a lot of us.”

Cuevas has been with Morrison Healthcare for six years cooking for doctors and nurses. But over the past two years of the pandemic, he said he is working more than 150 hours during his two-week pay periods. That’s about 75 hours a week.

“We deserve a fair raise that’s better than inflation,” Jamie Gulley, President of SEIU Healthcare, said.

So far, Morrison Healthcare has proposed a five percent increase in wages over three years. But workers said that is half of what inflation is this year.

“All of the boats need to be lifted here including ours and not just those at the top,” Gulley said.

Employees said the work they do is important to the healing process for Mayo patients.

“We take care of a lot of the community here. They come and get healthcare here. The number one hospital here and we want to take care of them,” Cuevas said.

In a statement to ABC 6 News, Morrison Healthcare said “We take pride in paying competitive wages and providing affordable benefits, and we have a long history of listening to our employees and working productively with unions. Within the last year, we have amicably renewed three union collective bargaining agreements within the Mayo Clinic System including SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, and Teamsters Local 120. We will continue to uphold our agreement with the SEIU, AFSCME, and Teamsters Local 120, and we will continue to meet and negotiate – always in good faith.”

DFL candidate for Minnesota State Senate District 24 Aleta Borrud said she has been a long-time supporter of the right to collective bargaining and she supports these food service workers fighting for what they deserve.

“I think in this moment when people are struggling to actually hire workers that it’s very imperative that people actually are treated right. This is part of the reason perhaps why Morrison is having a struggle to fill all of their shifts,” Borrud said.

“I love what I do here and I want to stay here and I love my job and taking care of the patients and doctors and nurses,” Cuevas said.

The contract expired in June and has been extended by agreement of the unions and Morrison. The union is planning to head back to the table for negotiations in September and they’re hoping to see some progress then. If they don’t, they said they might be back out picketing again.