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15,000 Minnesota nurses vote on potential second strike

Two months have passed since local healthcare providers took to the picket lines to protest what they consider unfair labor practices.

MINNEAPOLIS — On Wednesday thousands of nurses in the Twin Cities and in the Duluth-Superior areas will gather to vote on a second potential strike

In September, these nurses staged a historic strike. Around 15,000 nurses marched for three days under the slogan "Patients Before Profits." 

"It's basically a medical game of 'Survivor," said Angela Schroeder Malone, an ER nurse at Abbott Northwestern. "And nurses are burning out and they're leaving, and we have to fix this."

The Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) said in a release that nurses have made every effort to negotiate in good faith and win fair contracts at the negotiating table, but claim hospital executives continue to commit unfair labor practices and refuse solutions to solve the crisis of care and working conditions in local hospitals. Voting began at 6 a.m. and will continue until 10 p.m. Wednesday.

"I just came from our voting site at North Memorial... and nurses are streaming in like their lives depend on it. And they do," MNA President Mary Turner said at a press conference Wednesday morning.

"When we came back from our list strike in September we hoped that our hospital executives would hear us about the urgency of the crisis in our hospitals," Turner added. "But since then things have gotten worse and not better."

In addition to the 15 hospitals that participated in the first strike, nurses from St. Luke's Two Harbors will also vote on Wednesday to authorize a potential strike. 

Hospital officials say they're dealing with their own difficult budget reality. In a statement, Allina Health calls the threat of a strike an "unnecessary distraction."

The statement goes on to say hospitals hope to "make meaningful progress at our next negotiation session this Friday ... in order to return our sole focus on our shared mission: caring for our patients."

If two-thirds of the union's voting majority approve the strike, union leaders will then have the authority to give a 10-day strike notice to hospital employers.

Results of the vote are expected late Wednesday night. 

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