Nurses, physician assistants and other caregivers in the union representing 1,800 HealthPartners workers have voted overwhelmingly to strike if a contract agreement cannot be reached before Feb. 19.
The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported that 95 percent of Service Employees International Union members who work at HealthPartners voted to begin a seven-day strike. The union announced results of Thursday's vote on Friday outside the HealthPartners Neuroscience Center in St. Paul.
The nonprofit health care organization operates eight hospitals, 55 primary care clinics, 22 urgent care locations and numerous specialty practices in Minnesota and western Wisconsin.
The union says the sticking point is health benefits.
Kate Lynch is a nurse and member of the union bargaining team. She said HealthPartners wants to cut workers' benefits, increase insurance premiums and co-pays and reduce overtime.
"We did a cost calculator and for some people, just the increase in pharmacy co-pays is going to cost them more than what they've offered as a wage increase," she said.
The Bloomington-based health care provider and health insurance company said in a statement that its offer makes "reasonable" modifications in the employees' medical benefits.
"The modest changes we proposed to their health plan would support better health and encourage our colleagues to get care in high-quality, more affordable settings," the company said in a statement. "We believe this is a fair and reasonable proposal, especially given the financial headwinds facing the health care industry."