MINNEAPOLIS–Psych Associates at M-Health Fairview voted overwhelmingly to join SEIU Healthcare Minnesota when mail ballots were counted this afternoon. The yes vote got 98% of support from the workers who voted in the election. The vote count came just hours after workers spoke out at a virtual press conference about why they are voting "yes" to form their union and the challenges mental health workers have faced for years and especially during the COVID pandemic.
The main issues these essential healthcare workers have brought up in organizing have been safety, wages, and having a voice since they are the most patient-facing staff in the mental & behavioral health field.
Erin McCormick, a psychiatric associate in the intensive treatment center for children at M Health Fairview, shared why she had voted "yes" to form the union:
"I enjoy the chance to make sure these kids feel like they have people they can trust and a support system. I feel like we make a positive difference in their lives. One of the things we are fighting for is safety and respect. During my time I've been head butted and spent the night in the ER. While I was pregnant I also got punched by a patient. Luckily I turned at the last second and the patient punched my arm, but I was constantly worried about my baby's health. When you're working with patients that are at high risk of harming themselves or others, you're in a constant fight or flight mode. When you're on constant high alert, it's easy to burn out," said McCormick. "Another big reason I voted yes is the pay, both overall and in regards to the gender pay gap. Having an open conversation about pay and a contract where everything is formalized will help to address these issues. Mental health is so important, but our society doesn't seem to value it or the work done to help support those in crisis. We're joining together in our union to help show that our patients and this work is important."
Also speaking was Andrea Rivas, a senior psych associate who has worked at M-Health Fairview for eight years who shared why she has been fighting for workplace improvements:
"I really love helping our patients in challenging moments. I also very much enjoy working with my co-workers who do such amazing work every day. Earlier this year my coworker was being assaulted, I tried to step in and got punched repeatedly, suffering a concussion, causing me to miss multiple months of work. I am still feeling the effects of this incident almost seven months later. Mine is not the only story like this and I feel more needs to be done," said Rivas. "No one should have to work in unsafe conditions, but for too long we haven't had a voice, which is why I'm so excited to vote YES to stand with my co-workers for a voice to bring safety to our job. I'm excited to win this election and start the process of getting a seat at the table to make decisions about our work so both patients and staff can be as safe as possible."
Eric Immler also spoke about his experience working as a psych associate in an adult inpatient units at M-Health Fairview and why he was so excited by the vote at the afternoon press conference:
"It's hard to put into words how excited we are for this moment. I voted yes because I'm committed to our patients getting optimal care while also making sure we have a safe working environment," said Immler." It's so important we tell our stories and make clear no one should have to work in a dangerous or unsafe work environment. Things like safety, fair pay, having a seat at the table, these are things we all should have. I'm looking forward to having a seat at the table so we can focus on our patients."
The group of 350 workers will join an existing unit at M-Health Fairview of nearly 2,000 workers, with the ability to build their own contract that addresses the professional needs they face as mental health workers on the front lines.
SEIU Healthcare Minnesota unites nearly 50,000 healthcare and long-term care workers in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and home care throughout the state of Minnesota.