15,000 Minnesota nurses set to begin strike

About 15,000 members of the Minnesota Nurses Association are set to begin a three-day strike Sept. 12 at hospitals in the Twin Cities and Twin Ports.

The union, an affiliate of National Nurses United, is set to launch the strike Sept. 12 at 15 hospitals in the Twin Cities and Twin Ports. The hospitals are run by Allina Health, HealthPartners, Essentia Health, Fairview Health Services, Children's Minnesota, North Memorial Health and St. Luke's. Essentia Health-Moose Lake nurses also voted to join the strike.

The strike marks the largest by private sector nurses in U.S. history, according to The Washington Post.

Nurses say they are striking for fair contracts that improve patient care and working conditions at the bedside. They specifically seek increased staffing.

Inadequate nurse staffing to treat more patients, often with more complex issues, "puts us terribly at risk and puts our patients at risk," said Mary Turner, president of the Minnesota Nurses Association and an intensive care nurse at North Memorial Health in Robbinsdale, according to the Star Tribune.

Paul Omodt, a spokesperson for the Twin Cities Hospitals Group — which includes Children's Minnesota, North Memorial Health, Fairview and HealthPartners Methodist Hospital — told The Washington Post nurses have not made every effort they could to avoid a strike and "have steadfastly refused to go to mediation."

"Their choice is to strike. This strike is on the nurses," Mr. Omodt told the publication.

Conny Bergerson, a spokesperson for Allina Health, echoed Mr. Omodt, telling The Washington Post, "rushing to a strike before exhausting all options such as engaging a neutral federal mediator does not benefit our employees, patients or the communities we serve."

To address staffing, nurses are asking for a role in staffing plans, as well as changes to shift scheduling practice, The Washington Post reported. According to the Star Tribune, hospitals have been hesitant to reduce their authority to set staffing levels based on daily patient demands. 

Wages have also been a point of contention in negotiations. Nurses have sought wage increases of about 30 percent over three years. Hospitals have countered with wage increases of above 11 percent and have called the union's ask unsustainable.

In a statement shared with Becker's earlier in September, Allina Health said: "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."   

Essentia Health and other Minnesota health systems have filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board related to the strike. The labor board has tossed some of those charges, and the strike is set to begin as planned, according to The Washington PostHere's how hospitals have prepared.

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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