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One week left to reach a deal before Minnesota nurses' strike

As many as 15,000 nurses across Minnesota could go on strike starting Dec. 11 if an agreement cannot be reached by then.

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota — Negotiations continue as a potential nurses' strike looms. 

Up to 15,000 nurses with the Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) plan to strike if a deal cannot be reached in time. 

Last week, nurses authorized a second strike at 16 hospitals in the Twin Cities, Twin Ports and Two Harbors. Hospitals affected include M Health Fairview's Riverside, Southdale, St. Joseph's and St. John's; Essentia Health's St. Mary's Duluth and St. Mary's Superior; HealthPartners' Methodist; Allina Health's Mercy, United and Unity; Children's Minneapolis and Children's St. Paul; North Memorial; and St. Luke's Duluth and Lake View. 

Nurses in the Twin Cities and at Essentia Health are planning a 20-day strike starting at 7 a.m. on Sunday, Dec. 11. Nurses at St. Luke's in Duluth and Lake View in Two Harbors plan to strike with no end date in sight. 

According to MNA, contract talks have lasted nearly nine months. In September, Minnesota nurses held a three-day strike — believed to be the largest strike of private-sector nurses in the nation's history. 

Hospital staffing remains a sticking point. 

"Every day when our hospital executives understaff our units, that's not our fault. We're here to advocate for them. We're here to protect our patients," said Angela Becchetti, a nurse at Abbott Northwestern, during a union press conference on Dec. 1. 

Last week, Children's Minnesota said it had recruited about 320 nurses to fill in during the strike but that only covers about a third of their nurses planning to strike. 

Dr. Marc Gorelick, president and CEO of Children's Minnesota, said during a press conference on Dec. 1 that they are discussing closing their mental health unit and critical care units in the event of a strike. 

"The reality is that, in a set work stoppage, the critically ill children will need to be transferred to other hospitals outside of Minnesota to neighboring states," said Dr. Emily Chapman, senior vice president of medical affairs and chief medical officer, earlier in the week. 

"The hospital is at capacity and is maxed out," said Tricia Oxner, a nurse at Children's Hospital's Minneapolis campus, during Thursday's press conference. "Sometimes families are waiting hours and days to be admitted to a room."

While some hospital systems went back to the table, Allina Health said union leadership declined their offer to meet over the weekend. 

In a statement, Allina Health said, "Following last week's strike notices from MNA, Allina Health was hopeful we would be able to make substantial progress during our negotiation session on Friday. We continued trying to bring the parties closer to agreement on wages. Allina Health offered the union 15% over the three-year term of the contract. Additionally, we made proposals to address some of the unions key issues related to staffing. The union is still asking for 22.5% over three years, in addition to other economic benefits and while we were able to have productive discussions, we were not able to find common ground on staffing priorities. We are hopeful to come to agreement on wages and staffing at our next bargaining session."

Allina Health's next bargaining sessions are scheduled for Dec. 5 and Dec. 6. 

KARE 11 attempted to reach MNA on Sunday for an update on negotiations and we are waiting to hear back. 

A spokesperson for the Twin Cities Hospital Group also declined to comment Sunday on negotiations.

Replacement nurses are expected to start coming into town this week for training ahead of Sunday's planned strike date. 

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