ST PAUL, Minn. — Healthcare workers with the Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) voted "overwhelmingly" to authorize a strike on Monday, according to union organizers.
The vote, which required a supermajority to pass, means that union leaders can call a strike at any time. On Tuesday morning while meeting with reporters to discuss the vote, MNA President Mary Turner said a date has not yet been set, and reiterated that the union is required to give employers at least a 10-day notice before a work stoppage can take place.
Turner also told reporters that negotiations will be held today with all impacted hospitals, and said she hopes health care administration will step up so a strike can be averted.
The potential strike could impact operations and patient care at 15 hospitals from seven health systems between the Twin Cities and Duluth. The list includes Allina, M Health Fairview, Children's Hospital, North Memorial and HealthPartners, specifically Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park. In Duluth, it's Essentia and St Luke's.
"We need action now to address the crisis of retention, and we need action now to protect the quality of care our patients expect and deserve," Turner told reporters Tuesday. She said every shift at North Memorial Hospital, where she works, was 11 to 12 nurses short over the weekend and explained that she checked in with negotiators from other hospitals and the situation was the same.
Later Tuesday morning the Twin Cities Hospital Group released a statement reacting to the strike vote, and laying out where negotiations stand.
"We are disappointed that the nurses’ union rushed into a strike vote without exhausting all means of reaching an agreement at the table or agreeing to our request for mediation," the statement reads. "We believe mediation is a helpful tool for finding common ground and mediation was mutually beneficial in our talks three years ago. We call on the nurses’ union again to agree to mediation and return to the table to negotiate with the hospitals in good faith."
The hospital group says members have offered nurses the largest pay raise in 15 years, averaging between 10 and 12% over a three-year contract and insists core benefits remain unchanged, including a lifetime pension for union nurses. Hospital negotiators also say the two sides have reached agreement in areas like workplace violence and diversity, equity and inclusion. "Progress can be made in important areas when we work together," the statement says.
The bargaining unit representing more than 15,000 nurses is asking for contracts that include wage increases and more paid time off. They're also demanding solutions for short-staffing, retention and better patient care.
The nurses that work in the Twin Cities and Twin Ports have been working for months without a contract; the Twin Cities nurses contract expired May 31, and the Twin Ports on June 30.
Allina Health, one of the employers affected by the potential strike, released a statement following the strike approval vote.
Despite the on-going challenges being felt by Allina Health and throughout the nonprofit health care industry, we have offered an economic package that includes a wage increase of 11% over the three years of the contract, as well as additional compensation benefits. We have also demonstrated our commitment to many of the union’s priority issues, such as diversity, equity and inclusion, safety and security, and recruitment and retention.
Allina Health’s priority remains providing high quality care to our patients. Despite this vote, a strike is not inevitable, and we look forward to another negotiating session with the union on Aug. 30. We know progress on important issues for both parties are possible because we recently settled a new 3-year contract with our MNA represented nurses at our United Hospital - Hastings Regina Campus.
Watch more local news:
Watch the latest local news from the Twin Cities in our YouTube playlist: