15,000 Minnesota nurses authorize strike

Thousands of members of the Minnesota Nurses Association voted Aug. 15 to authorize nurse negotiation leaders to call a strike at hospitals in the Twin Cities and Duluth area.

The union, an affiliate of National Nurses United, represents more than 22,000 nurses and other healthcare professionals in Minnesota, North Dakota, Iowa and Wisconsin. It is in negotiations on behalf of 15,000 nurses who work at 15 hospitals run by Allina Health, HealthPartners, Essentia Duluth, Fairview Health Services, Children's Minnesota, North Memorial Health and St. Luke's Duluth.

Union members have negotiated for five months with hospital executives, and "voted overwhelmingly" to authorize a strike, according to an Aug. 15 union news release. The Twin Cities Hospitals group — which includes Children's Minnesota, North Memorial Health, Fairview and HealthPartners Methodist Hospital — told Becker's in a statement that its hospitals "offered our nurses the largest wage increases in 15 years. These increases reflect between 10 [percent] and 12 percent over the course of a three-year contract. The nurses' union has proposed wage increases of more than 30 percent —proposals that are unrealistic and unaffordable."

In a statement shared with Becker's, St. Luke's said: "We are proud to recognize the important contributions of our nurses and all employees by offering competitive compensation packages and exceptional benefits, while also striving to keep healthcare affordable for our community. We believe our offer of a 10.25 percent wage increase over three years is fair and reasonable. MNA continues asking for a 36.5 percent wage increase over three years."

And Allina said in a statement shared with Becker's: "We have offered an economic package that includes a wage increase of 11 percent over the three years of the contract, as well as additional compensation benefits. We have also demonstrated our commitment to many of the union's priority issues, such as diversity, equity and inclusion, safety and security, and recruitment and retention."

The union contends hospital leaders have refused to address their concerns about staffing, retention and care in hospitals.

"Hospital executives with million-dollar salaries have created a crisis of retention and care in our healthcare system, as more nurses are leaving the bedside, putting quality patient care at risk. Nurses do not take this decision [to authorize a strike] lightly, but we are determined to take a stand at the bargaining table, and on the sidewalk if necessary, to put patients before profits in our hospitals," Mary Turner, RN at Minneapolis-based North Memorial Hospital and president of the Minnesota Nurses Association, said in an Aug. 15 union news release.

"We believe mediation is a helpful tool for finding common ground, and mediation was mutually beneficial in our talks three years ago," the Twin Cities Hospitals group stated. "We call on the nurses' union again to agree to mediation and return to the table to negotiate with the hospitals in good faith."

The vote to authorize a strike does not mean a strike will occur, but authorizes nurse negotiation leaders to call one after giving a 10-day notice to hospital employers. Contracts expired for nurses May 31 in the Twin Cities and June 30 for nurses in Duluth.

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