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Twin Cities health workers preparing to strike Wednesday

ST. PAUL -- Nurses, physician assistants and other caregivers in the union representing 1,800 HealthPartners workers are preparing for a week-long strike set to begin Wednesday.

The move follows a vote Feb. 6 in which 95 percent of the SEIU Healthcare Minnesota members approved the “Unfair Labor Practices” picket at the health care provider’s clinics. The existing labor contract, which spans 80 job titles but does not include doctors, expired Jan. 31.

SEIU members and HealthPartners returned to the table twice during the week following the vote, but were unable to reach an agreement. At issue are cutbacks in healthcare coverage.

Bloomington-based HealthPartners maintains 30 clinic locations across the Twin Cities. It closed its St. Paul-based home care unit at the end of January and is trimming some 300 pharmacy jobs throughout its network, on top of cutting several dozen administrative staff.

“We don’t want to be forced to strike, but we know that if we go backwards on healthcare coverage now we will never get it back in the future” said Cindy Sutherlund, a 20-year LPN at HealthPartners and member of the SEIU Healthcare Minnesota bargaining team. “We’re ready to strike if HealthPartners won’t take their healthcare cuts off the table.”

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