15,000 Minnesota nurses move toward possible strike

The Minnesota Nurses Association said its members will vote Aug. 15 on whether to authorize nurse negotiation leaders to call a strike at hospitals in the Twin Cities and Duluth area.

The union, an affiliate of the National Nurses United, represents more than 22,000 nurses and other healthcare professionals in Minnesota, North Dakota, Iowa and Wisconsin. It is currently in negotiations on behalf of 15,000 nurses who work at 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 earlier in August took a vote of no confidence in their CEOs and other top leaders. Minneapolis-based Allina Health told Becker's in a statement that it "offered an economic package that includes a wage increase of 10.25 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."

In a statement shared with Becker's, St. Luke's said the union's salary demand "alone is 36.5 percent over three years, or more than a 12 percent increase per year. That means the average nurse currently making $50 per hour would be making $70 per hour. We're committed to competitive compensation for all our employees and a fair contract, but MNA's demands are unreasonable."

And the Twin Cities Hospitals group — which includes Children's Minnesota, North Memorial Health, Fairview and HealthPartners Methodist Hospital — stated Aug. 2 that hospitals proposed "the largest wage increase in 15 years while keeping nurses' benefits unchanged over contract years."

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 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. 11 union news release.

If union members vote to authorize a strike, it does not mean a strike would occur but would authorize nurse negotiation leaders to call one following 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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