15,000 Minnesota nurses plan 2nd strike

Members of the Minnesota Nurses Association plan to begin a strike Dec. 11 at 16 hospitals.

The strike affects about 15,000 nurses at 15 facilities run by Allina Health, HealthPartners, Essentia Health, Fairview Health Services, Children's Minnesota, North Memorial Health and St. Luke's. Nurses at St. Luke's Lake View Hospital in Two Harbors are also slated to join the 15,000 nurses in the Twin Cities and Twin Ports.

Union members are scheduled to begin striking at 7 a.m. Dec. 11. Nurses in the Twin Cities and at Essentia plan to strike through 7 a.m. on Dec. 31, while nurses at St. Luke's in Duluth and at St. Luke's Lake View in Two Harbors have chosen an open-ended strike, according to a union news release.

"Our hospitals are in crisis, and our CEOs have failed nurses and patients. They have failed to solve the crisis of patient care, and they have failed to solve the crisis of working conditions pushing nurses away from the bedside," Mary Turner, RN, president of the Minnesota Nurses Association, said in the release. "Nurses are fighting to win contracts that will help nurses stay on the job to provide patients with the exceptional care they deserve. Hospital CEOs with million-dollar salaries can afford to put Patients Before Profits in our hospitals and to do right by Minnesota nurses."

The union also accuses hospital executives of "colluding to keep wages down for nurses, direct dealing with nurse union members, and refusing to provide information necessary for the bargaining process." 

The scheduled strike follows a three-day strike in September. Nurses in the Twin Cities and Twin Ports have been in negotiations with hospital management for eight months and authorized another strike on Nov. 30.

Allina Health expressed disappointment about the union's decision to schedule another strike.

A statement from the health system reads, in part, "MNA leadership continues to focus on disruption at the expense of spending meaningful time at the bargaining table. We have made some progress and believe we can reach agreement on the outstanding issues with focused negotiations. Allina Health has repeatedly asked the union to join us in employing a neutral, independent mediator to help us resolve our remaining differences. The use of a mediator is a regular part of collective bargaining and a proven method of reaching agreement as has happened with our previous successful negotiations."

Allina Health also said the health system will negotiate again on Dec. 2 but has plans in place to continue caring for the community if the strike occurs.

The Twin Cities Hospitals Group — which includes Children's Minnesota, North Memorial Health, Fairview and HealthPartners Methodist Hospital — issued a similar statement.

"Our negotiators have made progress in many areas, and while gaps remain, we are confident progress can continue to be made by remaining engaged at the table," the statement reads. "It has barely been a week since the union finally agreed to bring expert mediators to assist the parties in reaching mutually agreeable solutions. Not one meeting with mediators has even occurred yet, but the union has elected to pursue a strike rather than settlement."

The group also said negotiators will be available to negotiate in good faith over the coming days to avert a strike, but it may be necessary for hospitals to reschedule non-critical care procedures if a walkout occurs.

St. Luke's said in a statement that it looks forward to negotiations Dec. 1.

"While MNA has agreed to allow a mediator to observe, we remain hopeful that MNA will allow the mediator to participate in the process. We believe having a mediator is the next best step toward reaching an agreement and avoiding a strike. We know our nurses want to be at the bedside doing what they do best: caring for patients," the statement reads. 

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