Homecare, hospice workers overcome anti-union campaign to become USW members

The 35 homecare and hospice workers at Fairview Range Medical Center in Hibbing, Minn., voted to join the USW last Thurs., May 25. The group includes registered nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, social workers, case managers, home health aides, licensed practical nurses, workers in scheduling and billing, and one chaplain.

The workers decided to organize to raise pay in order to attract and retain quality staff so their patients get the best care possible.

"Our patients have more acute need than even five years ago, and we have less and less workers to care for them," said Sarah Lamppa, a social worker who spearheaded the union effort. "We need to draw in quality workers who want to stay so our patients get the best care possible, and get our wages to a more competitive place." 

Management held anti-union meetings, conducted 1:1s with some employees, and tried to bribe workers with "longevity" raises during the organizing campaign. The employer also delayed the vote to buy themselves more time to bust the union campaign by arguing to the National Labor Relations Board that the unit should include the employees at International Falls, a location far from Fairview hospice with very little interchange of work. 

The workers combatted the anti-union campaign by being open and honest with anyone who wanted more information. The organizing committee also held meetings that everyone was invited to, rebutted management's rhetoric, and showed examples of bargaining surveys while waiting for the NLRB to issue a decision on the unit composition. 

The new members are excited to start bargaining their first contract and will join amalgamated Local 9349.

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