Essentia files unfair labor practice charge against Minnesota Nurses Association

Duluth, Minn.-based Essentia Health has filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board ahead of a planned strike by thousands of members of the Minnesota Nurses Association.

The health system contends in a Sept. 7 news release that the union failed to include Essentia Health-Duluth when listing facilities in its 10-day strike notice on Sept. 1, while announcing a strike there later that month.

Essentia Health also contends the Minnesota Nurses Association failed to follow U.S. labor law "requiring it to provide adequate strike notice to all relevant stakeholders, including federal and state mediation services that could potentially assist the parties in reaching a mutually beneficial agreement." Essentia Health and other Minnesota health systems have filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board related to the issue.  

"Since bargaining began in April, Essentia has negotiated in good faith toward a fair agreement," the health system said in its release. "We believe it's imperative for us to exhaust all of our options in pursuit of this objective as we seek to preserve our ability to provide patient care. This includes continuing to negotiate at the table, which is where solutions are found. We again encourage the MNA to consider mediation."

Chris Rubesch, BSN, RN, Minnesota Nurses Association first vice president and a nurse at Essentia Health in Duluth, disputed the health system's latest complaint.

"This is yet another desperate move by Minnesota hospital executives unprepared to reckon with the power of 15,000 nurses standing firm to demand better care and working conditions in our hospitals," he said in a statement shared with Becker's. "The National Labor Relations Board requires notification only of the date and time that picketing will commence, which the Minnesota Nurses Association provided to Essentia Health. There is no requirement that a union provide notice of the locations at which it intends to picket."

Regarding the health system's complaint that the union failed to provide an adequate strike notice, the union has said hospital executives "are demanding nurses file an additional 30-day notice with the state Bureau of Mediation Services, despite the fact that BMS does not have jurisdiction over private sector employers."

The union, an affiliate of National Nurses United, is set to launch a three-day strike Sept. 12 at 16 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. About 15,000 nurse union members are expected to participate.  

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