Strike by 15,000 Minnesota nurses reaches final day

About 15,000 members of the Minnesota Nurses Association are on their last day of a three-day strike Sept. 14 at hospitals in the Twin Cities and Twin Ports.

The union, an affiliate of National Nurses United, launched 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, but ultimately decided to hold informational pickets instead, the Star Tribune reported Sept. 14.

During the strike, union members have called for increased staffing and improved working conditions.

"We are tired of our hospitals saying, 'We don't have enough, there's nothing I can do, that costs too much,'" Angela Becchetti, a nurse at Allina Health's Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, said, according to the Star Tribune. "In the end, our patients [are] suffering."

Affected hospitals have focused on maintaining operations during the strike and have brought in travel nurses to fill staffing gaps.

Paul Omodt, a spokesperson for the Twin Cities Hospitals Group — which includes Children's Minnesota, North Memorial Health, Fairview and HealthPartners Methodist Hospital — told Becker's Sept. 14: "Operationally, things have run fairly smooth with standard patient counts and times."

In statements shared with Becker's in recent weeks, hospitals have focused their comments on wages, which have 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.

"Nurses in Minnesota rank among the most highly compensated in the nation, regularly in the top 10 among all the states," said a statement from several of the negotiating Twin Cities hospitals that was shared with the Star Tribune. "The average Minnesota nurse earns $80,960."

The price tag for the strike among all the affected health systems will likely be at least in the tens of millions, when taking into account the $7,000 to $10,000 per replacement nurse, plus travel, lodging and training costs, according to the Star Tribune.

Starting the evening of Sept. 14, striking nurses will begin returning to work at Allina Health, the health system said in a statement shared with Becker's. This includes striking nurses at United Hospital in St. Paul, who will return at 6:30 p.m. based on the union's 10-day strike notice. Striking nurses at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids and Mercy Hospital–Unity Campus in Fridley will return at 7 a.m. Sept. 15.

"Traveling nurses' assignments will end when our striking MNA nurses return to each site," Allina Health's statement reads. 

"Allina Health remains committed to moving forward and reaching a fair contract that recognizes the priorities of both parties."

Essentia Health told Becker's: "We will welcome all our nurses back at 7 a.m. [Sept. 15]. We look forward to returning to the bargaining table because that's where solutions occur and cannot speculate on the MNA's future actions."

St. Luke's said in a statement: "We are doing everything we can to recruit new nurses, train the nursing workforce of the future, and retain the nurses we have. We have also added new roles and are using technology more than ever to support nurses."

The health system also said it "provides competitive wages that recognize our nurses for their time and talents" and has actively engaged with MNA in all topics on the table during 17 negotiation sessions.

Striking nurses will be welcomed back to St. Luke's starting at 7 a.m. Sept. 15. 

Twin Cities Hospitals Group said in a Sept. 15 statement that hospitals in the group "begin the transition of its MNA-represented nurses who chose to strike back to serving our patients and our community. Our care teams will welcome back nurses as needed to meet the needs of our patients."

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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