Minnesota nurses criticize hospital board members amid contract negotiations

As they negotiate new contracts, members of the Minnesota Nurses Association are calling out hospital board members.

Union members rallied Nov. 2 outside of U.S. Bank’s corporate offices in downtown Minneapolis, accusing hospital board members of supporting the "corporatization" of healthcare and "failed leadership," the Minnesota Reformer reported.

"They are responsible for what is going on at our hospitals. They are responsible for the failure of our CEOs," Minnesota Nurses Association President Mary Turner, RN, said at the rally, according to the newspaper.

The union specifically criticized three board members — U.S. Bank Vice Chairs Jeff von Gillern, a board member for Children's Minnesota; Jodi Richard, a board member for Fairview Health; and Timothy Welsh, a board member for Allina Health.

The Twin Cities Hospitals Group — which includes Children's Minnesota, North Memorial Health, Fairview and HealthPartners Methodist Hospital — told Becker's on Nov. 1 that it "remains focused on negotiating a fair and reasonable contract with the nurses' union and reiterates our request for the nurses' union to agree to mediation. These talks have surpassed six months and 20 face-to-face sessions, yet the union's wage demands of nearly 30 percent remain unreasonable and unaffordable. We believe our time is best spent working together on solutions with the assistance of a trained, neutral mediator who can ensure these talks successfully conclude."

Allina Health issued a similar statement. It reads in part, "Since March, Allina Health has negotiated in good faith with the union 18 times, and we have made progress on priority noneconomic proposals. Yet, proposals around unreasonable wages and staffing provisions continue to stall negotiations. We believe bringing negotiations to a common table with other healthcare systems can move us toward a contract agreement. We renewed this request as recently as Oct. 31 and have not heard anything from the union. We continue to ask for the engagement of a neutral mediator to assist both parties in coming to a contract agreement. The union has refused."

Allina Health's next bargaining session is Nov. 3.

The Minnesota Nurses Association, an affiliate of National Nurses United, represents 15,000 nurses who went on strike in September at more than a dozen hospitals in the Twin Cities and Twin Ports. The three-day strike took place at hospitals run by Allina Health, HealthPartners, Essentia Health, Fairview Health Services, Children's Minnesota, North Memorial Health and St. Luke's.

Since the strike, "nurses have been back at the negotiating table, trying everything possible to reach agreement with hospital CEOs on a contract to put patients before profits," the MNA said in a Nov. 1 news release. "Unfortunately, hospital executives continue to refuse to work with nurses to solve the issues of short-staffing and unsustainable working conditions which are driving nurses from the bedside and negatively impacting patient care."

Earlier this year, the union launched a campaign calling for an end to "profit-first policies of hospital CEOs." MNA members at seven hospitals in the Twin Cities and Twin Ports also took a symbolic vote of no confidence this year in their CEOs and other top executives.

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