15,000 Minnesota nurses approve contracts with 'historic' pay raises

Members of the Minnesota Nurses Association have approved three-year contracts with hospital executives that include pay raises and language to address staffing.

The contracts cover nurses at 15 hospitals in the Twin Cities and Twin Ports.

Union members bargained for new agreements for nine months, according to a Dec. 14 MNA news release. Approximately 15,000 union members planned to strike at Twin Cities and Twin Ports facilities run by Children's Minnesota, North Memorial, Allina Health, M Health Fairview, HealthPartners, Essentia Health and St. Luke's. However, the strike was called off after nurses reached tentative deals. Nurses voted on the tentative agreements Dec. 9, 12 and 13.  Nurses at St. Luke's Lake View Hospital in Two Harbors, Minn., were slated to join the strike by nurses in the Twin Cities and Twin Ports but withdrew their strike notice amid ongoing negotiations.

"With these contracts, the staffing levels set by our hospital executives will never get worse than they are today, as nurses won a new voice in the process and better protections to appeal for the safe staffing levels we need," Mary Turner, RN, president of the MNA, said in the union release. 

According to the union, the new contracts include language to prevent staffing reductions without agreement between union members and management; to help protect nurses from disciplinary action when they express concerns regarding unsafe assignments; and "to trigger reviews of staffing levels by nurses and management in response to key measures of patient and nurse well-being and outcomes."

The union also said the new agreements include "historic" pay raises. Nurses in the Twin Cities will see raises of 18 percent over three years while nurses in the Twin Ports will see raises of 17 percent during that period, with pay retroactive to expiration of the prior contract.

Additionally, several contracts include gains including workplace safety protections, the MNA said.

At Essentia Health, the new contract covers more than 1,300 nurses working at Essentia Health-St. Mary's Medical Center, Essentia Health-Duluth and Essentia Health St. Mary's Hospital-Superior.

"We're grateful to reach an agreement that ensures our nurses will continue to provide the expert, compassionate care that our patients expect and deserve from Essentia Health," the health system said in a statement shared with Becker's. "We thank our colleagues and our communities for their support during this process."

At Allina Health, contracts cover nurses at Abbott Northwestern, United and Mercy hospitals.

"We believe the contracts are fair and address the priorities of both parties," the health system said in a statement shared with Becker's.

"Allina Health remains committed both to being an employer of choice and to our caring mission of serving our patients and our communities. We are grateful to have successfully reached an agreement with MNA so we can solely focus on continuing to serve the healthcare needs of our community during this time of increased need."

The Twin Cities Hospitals Group — which includes Children's Minnesota, North Memorial Health, Fairview and HealthPartners Methodist Hospital — issued the following statement: "The Twin Cities Hospitals Group is pleased Minnesota Nurses Association members ratified new three-year contracts. We believe the contracts are fair and meet the needs of our nurses, hospitals and patients. The focus of each member of our care teams remains on caring for our patients and our communities."

St. Luke's, in its statement, said: "We would like to recognize all who were at the negotiating table over the past several months. We know it was extremely challenging, and the effort put in by both sides is deeply appreciated. 

"We are grateful to be part of an organization deeply committed to its mission, with co-workers so committed to one another, and with the privilege of caring for our region."

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