A planned merger between the parent companies of the Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society and Ebenezer Senior Living, which seemed all but certain a few months ago, is facing mounting challenges that now include opposition from healthcare union IAM Healthcare, a part of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

The IAM Healthcare union’s membership includes approximately 10,000 healthcare workers, including within the Sioux Falls, SD-based Sanford Health system, the parent of the Good Samaritan Society.

Sanford Health and Minneapolis-based Fairview Health Services, which includes Ebenezer Senior Living, in November announced a plan to combine to create a new health system. By the end of January, however, the deal was facing challenges from the Minnesota attorney general, the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis and others, leading the organizations to voluntarily delay the timeline of their proposed merger by two months. As the attorney general looks into the merger, the union now is calling on South Dakota government officials to intervene as well.

“We’d like to see something similar in South Dakota,” IAM Helathcare Director Shane Brinton said, as reported by Argus Leader. “Much of the coverage, and much of the focus has been in Minnesota. …We’re raising the alarm here, because we have a concern that this may be just as impactful for the Dakotas.”

The union is concerned with fair labor practices and patient costs, according to a statement. The union maintains that Sanford Health “has a troubling track record of post-merger cuts and layoffs,” closing at least nine cruising homes from November 2021 to June 2022 after merging with the Good Samaritan Society in 2018.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced that every community needs accessible and affordable healthcare available to them,” IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr. said. “We cannot continue to value the corporate bottom line over the healthcare needs of our families.”

The Good Samaritan Society was listed as the second largest not-for-profit multi-site senior living and care organization in the country based on the total number of units on the 2022 LeadingAge Ziegler 200 lists. It ranked No. 3 for assisted living, No. 4 for independent living and No. 1 for skilled nursing.

Ebenezer is Minnesota’s largest senior living operator. It also made the 2022 LZ 200 list of largest not-for-profit multi-site senior living and care organizations in the country, at No. 158 overall, No. 56 for assisted living, No. 197 for independent living and No. 104 for skilled nursing.