Allina nurse strike at standstill going into third week

Striking Allina Health nurses remain deadlocked with the Minneapolis-based health system in a dispute over health insurance, reports MPR News.

The workers, who are represented by the Minnesota Nurses Association, began their second strike of the summer on Labor Day at five Minnesota hospitals — Abbott Northwestern Hospital and Phillips Eye Institute in Minneapolis, United Hospital in St. Paul, Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids and Unity Hospital in Fridley. As workers began the strike, Allina brought in 1,500 replacement nurses.

Two weeks later, no future talks are scheduled, and neither side has asked to return to the bargaining table, according to the article.

The nurses plan to strike until a deal is reached. However, they must restart negotiations with Allina for that to happen, and neither side wants to initiate further talks, reports MPR News. A federal mediator has not yet gotten involved.

A key issue in the dispute between Allina and its 4,800 union nurses has been the nurses' health insurance. Allina wanted to eliminate the nurses' four union-backed health plans, which include high premiums but low or no deductibles, and move the nurses to its corporate plans, reports the Star Tribune. Allina has estimated that eliminating the nurses' four union-backed health plans would save the health system $10 million per year.  

Recently in the dispute, the union has questioned Allina's business dealings, according to the article.

The union claims Allina helped arrange or direct the dissolution of The North Suburban Hospital District Board, which owns Unity Hospital, and that Allina was involved in a predatory financial deal that cost it and several other organizations millions in extra fees, reports MPR News. But Allina has refuted those claims in statements and on MPR News.

"There are mistruths and actually quite honestly lies being spoken about not only our organization, but other organizations too in how finances are being managed," Allina CEO Penny Wheeler, MD, said, according to the report. "And that is just unfair. The ends don't justify the means."

In response, Rose Roach, executive director of the MNA, said, "Allina has brought up their finances, and the reason they need to switch the health plans is about saving $10 million. [If] you're going to open up the door to finances, we get to question finances. And that's exactly what we're doing in this particular case," the article states.

The latest strike is the second since an initial seven-day strike in June. The June strike cost Allina $20.4 million.

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