15,000 Minnesota nurses plan strike

Thousands of members of the Minnesota Nurses Association are set to launch a three-day strike Sept. 12 at 16 hospitals throughout the state.

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 nurses who work at hospitals in the Twin Cities, Twin Ports and Moose Lake. The hospitals are run by Allina Health, HealthPartners, Essentia Health, Fairview Health Services, Children's Minnesota, North Memorial Health and St. Luke's.

A total of 15,000 unionized Twin Cities and Twin Port nurses voted Aug. 15 to authorize a strike, which was followed by a strike authorization vote by Essentia Health-Moose Lake nurses. The union and hospitals have been in negotiations for more than five months, according to a Sept. 1 union news release. The Twin Cities Hospitals group — which includes Children's Minnesota, North Memorial Health, Fairview and HealthPartners Methodist Hospital — told Becker's it has offered nurses "the largest wage increases in 15 years while agreeing to keep nurses’ benefits unchanged for the life of the contract.".

In a statement shared with Becker's, Allina Health said: "Throughout negotiations, Allina Health has offered an economic package that includes a wage increase of 11 percent over the three years of the contract, additional compensation benefits, and a commitment to other priority issues, such as diversity, equity and inclusion, workplace safety and recruitment and retention. The union is still at an unsustainable 31 percent wage increase over three years, which is not feasible as we look long-term at our responsibility to all employees and our commitment to being a sustainable asset to the communities we serve." 

In a statement shared with Becker's, St. Luke's said: "We have negotiated in good faith for several months to reach a fair and equitable contract with our nurses. We have approached each negotiating session with the intent to come to an agreement and will continue to do so at our next session on Sept. 8. We believe both parties should be doing everything they can to avoid a strike, and we continue to call for the MNA to allow the assistance of a federal mediator."

Essentia Health, in a news release, also called for mediation in contract negotiations because of the gap between the wage increase the union is seeking and the one the health system is offering.

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," Mary Turner, a registered nurse at North Memorial Hospital and president of the Minnesota Nurses Association, said in the union release. "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."

The union's intent to strike does not mean a strike will occur. A strike could be avoided if an agreement is reached. If a strike does occur, it will be the first that Twin Cities and Twin Ports nurses have taken together in contract negotiations, according to the Minnesota Nurses Association. Essentia Health-Moose Lake nurses plan to join the strike Sept. 12.

Contracts expired for nurses May 31 in the Twin Cities and June 30 for Twin Ports nurses. The union began negotiating its first contract with Essentia Health two years ago.

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