MINNEAPOLIS — After months of negotiations between the Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) and Minnesota's heath systems, health care workers hit the picket lines in the Twin Cities and Duluth Monday at 7 a.m.
This is the largest private sector nurses strike in U.S. history, according to the MNA.
Picketing health care workers will be outside 15 hospitals across the state from Monday, Sept. 12 through Thursday, Sept. 15.
On Aug. 15, the union voted "overwhelmingly" to authorize a strike after more than five months of negotiations with hospital representatives from seven hospital groups, including M Health Fairview, Essentia Health, HealthPartners, Allina Health, Children's Hospitals, North Memorial and St, Luke's.
The union is calling for wage increases and more paid time off in their updated contracts. They're also demanding solutions for short-staffing, retention and better patient care.
RELATED: 15,000 Minnesota nurses plan to strike starting Sept. 12
"Yesterday, on Saturday, there were two health care facilities up in Duluth that were bargaining, Essentia St. Mary's and St. Luke's, and down here in the cities, Children's and the Fairview system were at the table," said Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) President Mary Turner. "Unfortunately, they didn't get anywhere."
Nurses say they want a nearly 30% boost to their economic package over three years, but some hospital groups say they've offered 11 to 12% over the same time period.
"Twenty-seven-percent from our side came across at Duluth, so ours officially, not all the hospitals, is 27% — and theirs has not changed from 12," said Turner.
Essentia Health issued a statement after Saturday night's negotiations saying:
"Essentia Health is disappointed the MNA is focusing its efforts on a strike instead of at the bargaining table, where real solutions are found. We continue to believe that it’s imperative for both sides to exhaust our options in pursuit of a mutually beneficial agreement. One of those options, which we’ve repeatedly requested, is mediation. Unfortunately, the union has consistently declined this request.
"Essentia is proud to have some of the finest nurses in the country. We value the outstanding care they provide while uplifting our mission of making a healthy difference in people’s lives. However, we cannot agree to the MNA’s request for a 27% wage increase because it’s not responsible.
"We want to assure our patients and communities that our hospitals will remain open and accessible during a strike. We have extensive contingency plans in place to preserve our ability to deliver the highest standards of care. Essentia’s top priority in everything we do is to improve the safety and well-being of the patients and communities we’re privileged to serve.
Allina Health released the following statement Monday:
As we progress through the first day of the Minnesota Nurses Association strike, Allina Health continues to be focused on delivering safe, reliable care. With patient safety as our priority, our teams have rescheduled a limited number of non-emergent appointments to ensure we are meeting our community’s emergent and on-going health care needs.
We are grateful for all members of our care teams who are working to ensure continuity of care each day and throughout the duration of the 3-day strike.
Based on MNA’s proposed 30% wage increase over the 3-year contract, as well as 30 additional economic proposals, it is clear that agreement on an economic package is the significant issue. As we have said all along, strikes do not benefit anyone and the only path to reaching agreement is through negotiations. At the conclusion of MNA’s strike, we are hopeful that they will be ready to engage in serious negotiations with the assistance of a federal mediator to help the parties remain at the table until a deal is reached.
For those who have questions about patient care during MNA’s strike, please go to AllinaHealth.org.
Twin Cities Hospitals Group released a statement Monday:
The Twin Cities Hospitals Group is deeply disappointed the nurses’ union has chosen to strike before exhausting all efforts to reach an agreement. The union rejected all requests for mediation and held fast to wage demands that were unrealistic, unreasonable and unaffordable and, instead, chose to put their agenda before patients. To be clear: the union’s choice to strike is theirs and theirs alone.
The focus of the hospitals now is on serving our patients and our community.
St. Luke's issued a statement Monday saying:
This morning at 7 a.m. we had a very smooth transition of care from St. Luke’s nurses to replacement RNs. We are fully staffed and extremely pleased with the quality of the replacement RNs. We are not on divert for medical patients and have accepted every patient from the region who needs our care. We are accepting patients in our emergency department and throughout our hospital, with the exception of our inpatient mental health unit. St. Luke’s entire team is doing an incredible job of caring for patients.
Mary Turner claimed St. Luke’s was holding ICU nurses hostage and forced them to work nearly 19 hours. That is absurd. A few ICU nurses were asked to remain on the floor for 20 minutes beyond the end of their shift. During that time, their replacements were in the hospital and receiving report to assume care.
We are appropriately focused on caring for our patients during the MNA work stoppage and have not scheduled our next negotiating session. We look forward to returning to the table to reach a fair and equitable agreement. We must balance fair compensation, continued investment in services, and maintaining the highest standard of patient care, all while striving to keep health care affordable for our community.
MNA is asking for wage increases of 24.5% over three years (10%, 8.5%, 6%) among many other economic demands, which are simply unaffordable. St. Luke’s is offering a 10.5% wage increase over three years, which is generous by any measure.
We did everything we could to avoid a strike. We negotiated in good faith through 17 sessions, including 44 hours just this past week. On Saturday night at 10 pm, we were at an impasse and had to focus our resources on preparing to care for our region during the work stoppage. We did not abandon the negotiating process. We have been asking for federal mediation for months. MNA could have averted this strike and chose not to.
Paul Omodt represents four of the seven hospital groups: Fairview, Children's, North Memorial and Methodist. On Sunday, he told KARE 11 that those hospitals will have trained managers and leaders ready to staff their hospitals, along with replacement nurses ready to go at 7 a.m. when the strike picket starts.
The Minnesota Department of Health will also monitor staffing levels at the affected hospitals to make sure the facilities are still meeting state regulations.
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