Second class citizens no more
Five years after a landmark SCOTUS decision, public employees continue exercising their restored freedom of association.
Much has been made of the Mayo Clinic’s successful showdown with the Minnesota Nurses Association over the union’s now-foiled attempt to dictate staffing levels at Minnesota hospitals with the complicity of DFL legislators. Yet behind the scenes, a smaller skirmish between Mayo healthcare workers and another union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 65, continues to play out as well.
Mayo Clinic Health Systems workers in Mankato recently filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board to hold an election to decertify the union. The action comes nearly a year after another Mayo Clinic Mankato bargaining unit with 400 nurses led the way by voting to end MNA union membership.
The National Right to Work Foundation announced details of its latest Minnesota case on the group’s website.
Less than a year after Mankato Mayo Clinic nurses voted the Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) union out of the facility, Mankato Mayo nursing support staff, clerical staff, and environmental staff are undertaking a similar effort. Mankato Mayo employee Melody Morris, with free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, filed a petition on May 9 asking the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to hold a vote at the clinic on whether American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) officials should be removed.
The bargaining unit currently challenging union representation has some 200 members. Most of them signed the decertification petition, an indication AFSCME faces likely defeat.
A majority of Morris’ colleagues within the work unit under the control of AFSCME union officials supported her petition. Under NLRB rules, a union “decertification” petition containing the signatures of at least 30% of workers in a unit is enough to prompt the NLRB to administer a union decertification election.
In the Mankato Free Press, union activists criticized National Right to Work’s support on behalf of employees who want to keep more of their paychecks by forgoing mandatory dues.
AFSCME also sent The Free Press a statement that said in part the petition impacted workers’ freedom to negotiate for safe staffing levels, fair wages and benefits.
“The timing of this makes it clear that this is a coordinated effort to silence anyone — Minnesota voters, Minnesota workers, Minnesota elected officials — that would raise concerns about safe staffing levels and fair wages for working people,” the statement said.
But Minnesota workers attempting to leave a union turn to National Right to Work for good reason, given the complexity of labor law and obstacles to Minnesotans who do not wish to pay union dues as a requirement of employment.
Workers often seek free legal assistance from the National Right to Work Foundation in exercising their right to vote out an unpopular union because the NLRB’s process for doing so is convoluted and prone to union boss gamesmanship. The right to decertify is especially important for Mankato Mayo Clinic employees and other workers across Minnesota because, due to the state’s lack of Right to Work protections, union officials can force workers under their control to pay dues as a condition of getting or keeping a job. In contrast, in Right to Work states, union membership and all union financial support are strictly voluntary.
The Mayo Clinic Mankato all but endorsed the challenge to AFSCME in a low-key response in the Free Press.
“This is a staff-led effort, and we are grateful for the confidence these individuals have in Mayo Clinic Health System,” the statement said.
A date remains to be set for the latest decertification union vote at Mayo Clinic Health Systems in Mankato. But the handwriting appears to be on the wall in the latest challenge to compulsory union membership among healthcare workers in Minnesota.
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