ST PAUL, Minn. — Nurses in the Twin Cities, Twin Ports and Two Harbors regions have cast their ballots, weighing in on Wednesday on a second potential strike.
Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) said that an "overwhelming" majority of union members voted in favor of an unfair labor practices strike.
At a press conference Thursday morning, leaders with MNA announced that nurses at hospitals across the state plan to begin their strike on Dec. 11, 2022 at 7 a.m. if no agreement is reached.
Nurses in the Twin Cities and at Essentia Health plan to strike through 7 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 31 2022.
Nurses at St. Luke's in Duluth and Lake View in Two Harbors intend to strike with no end date in sight.
In the Twin Cities and Duluth-Superior, nurses have been in ongoing talks with hospital leaders over contracts for the past eight months. Nurses in Two Harbors are joining the union's fight, bringing the count of potentially affected hospitals to 17 statewide.
MNA has maintained that their fight is to put "Patients Before Profits" while improving working conditions for nurses.
“Our hospitals are in crisis, and our CEOs have failed nurses and patients. They have failed to solve the crisis of patient care, and they have failed to solve the crisis of working conditions pushing nurses away from the bedside,” said Mary C. Turner, RN at North Memorial Hospital and President of the Minnesota Nurses Association.
Union leaders say hospital staffing levels remain a sticking point.
"The hospital is at capacity and is maxed out," said Tricia Oxner, a nurse at Children's Hospital's Minneapolis campus. "Sometimes families are waiting hours and days to be admitted to a room."
"Just imagine a patient sitting in poop, putting on her call light or his call light and you can't get to that patient for over 30 minutes, an hour," St. John's and Bethesda Hospital nurse Modest Okorie added. "Mainly we are asking for good staffing, to have a say in the grid."
They say talks were held as recently as this week with some hospitals.
"At the negotiation table, their answers remain unchanged," Oxner said. "They do not want nurses involved in the decision-making process."
"Staffing needs to be addressed and without that, we are nowhere close to getting that tentative agreement to avoid that strike," Abbott Northwestern Hospital nurse Angela Becchetti added.
MNA leaders addressed concerns over the union avoiding mediation, saying mediation only helps when parties are close to reaching a deal. When asked what progress has been made, they said it depends on the hospital but that at Allina Health, they have agreed on some workplace violence protocols.
Some progress also appears to have been made over salary negotiations. Back in September, nurses were asking for more than 30% raises spread over three years. They're now down to asking for about 20% while some hospitals are offering 13-14%.
Thursday Allina Health, one of the hospitals employing thousands of Minnesota nurses, released the following statement:
We are deeply disappointed by Minnesota Nurse’s Association’s choice to issue a strike notice when our community is experiencing a triple threat of illnesses – influenza, RSV and COVID - and before they have exhausted all available options to reach agreement. Providing the necessary care for our community during this surge of seasonal illness, in addition to the many other healthcare needs of our patients, has put unprecedented stress on Minnesota’s healthcare system. To be clear, the union is deciding to further withdraw critical healthcare resources at a time when the community’s healthcare needs are high and at the risk of those who are depending on us for care.
MNA leadership continues to focus on disruption at the expense of spending meaningful time at the bargaining table. We have made some progress and believe we can reach agreement on the outstanding issues with focused negotiations. Allina Health has repeatedly asked the union to join us in employing a neutral, independent mediator to help us resolve our remaining differences. The use of a mediator is a regular part of collective bargaining and a proven method of reaching agreement as has happened with our previous successful negotiations.
Allina Health remains committed to reaching an agreement that reflects the valuable contributions of our nurses and will negotiate with the union again on Dec. 2. While we are hopeful a deal can be reached, we want to assure the public that we have plans in place to continue caring for our community with as few disruptions to care as possible.
In September, nurses held a three-day strike, believed to be the largest of its kind in U.S. history. According to MNA, nurses in the Twin Cities have been without a contract since May 2022. Twin Ports nurses' contracts expired in June 2022, and nurses at St. Luke's Lake View Hospital in Twin Harbors have been without a contract since September.
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