COON RAPIDS AP) -- The union representing support workers at 12 Twin Cities hospitals started a series of "rolling strikes" to protest the hospitals' labor practices during collective bargaining.
At 10 p.m. Thursday, members of Local 113 of the Service Employees International Union walked off the job for 24 hours at Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids in the first of the planned strikes.
The union said another strike is planned next week at Fairview-Riverside Hospital in Minneapolis.
Local 113 represents about 5,900 Twin Cities housekeepers, nursing assistants, radiology aides and other support workers, including about 650 members at Mercy. Members have been working without a contract since Feb. 28.
Hospital representatives said managers, nonunion employees and some temporary workers would fill in as needed and that patient care wouldn't be affected. All departments at Mercy will remain open, although some elective surgery might be postponed, said Kathy Wilde, the hospital's vice president for patient care.
The two sides had been meeting with a federal mediator, but no new talks were scheduled. Union officials said the main sticking point in talks is the high cost of health care coverage for hospital workers.
The average monthly premium for family coverage now is about $488, said union spokesman Rick Varco, while hospital executives and other managers pay about half that amount. Costs and plans vary at each of the hospitals, which are self-insured.
Pay for the union members averages about $13 an hour.
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