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Nurse union president says strike isn't off the table

Fifteen-thousand nurses in Minnesota are working without a contract as negotiations between the hospitals and union are on-going.

ST PAUL, Minn. — Frustration fueled by burnout has the Minnesota Nursing Association (MNA) not backing down on their demands, says president Mary Turner. Negotiations with Twin Cities and Twin Ports hospitals began in March and not much progress has been made. 

"A strike isn't off the table. It wouldn't be the first time nurses in Minnesota have walked out," Turner said. 

The MNA says they found seven hospitals with unionized nurses who voted with "no confidence" in their leadership at Fairview Health Services, Children’s Minnesota, North Memorial Health and St. Luke’s Duluth.

"We don't have confidence in our CEOs and other executives to properly address our understaffing," Turner said. "Nurses are overworked and patients are overcharged, this isn't a new issue."

Turner says the union is asking for increased wages and more paid time off through an economic package increase of 37-39% over three years. The hospitals are offering 8-10% over the same time period.

According to MNA spokesperson Sam Fettig, the union's request would amount to about a 15% increase in 2022, 11% in 2023 and 10% in 2014. On the hospital side, the proposed increases are around 3% in 2022, 3% in 2023 and 2% in 2024.

RELATED: Hundreds of nurses vote to get rid of union at Mayo Clinic hospital in Mankato

A spokesperson for M Health Fairview, Children's Minnesota, North Memorial Health and Park Nicollet Methodist Hospital denied a camera interview with KARE. Spokesperson Paul Omodt emailed this statement: 

Contract talks began in mid-March at each of the four hospital systems represented by the Twin Cities Hospitals Group and each hospital has had more than 12 negotiating sessions with the nurses’ union without coming to an agreement. We are proud to have proposed the largest wage increase in 15 years while keeping nurses benefits unchanged over contract years. While we have made small progress in some areas, there remain significant differences between our proposals and those of the union.

Hospital systems are continuing to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic with many facing significant financial challenges. In this climate, wage increases proposed by the union between 32-37 percent are unrealistic, unaffordable, and unwise considering the growing affordability crisis facing patients and health care systems across the country.

We strongly urge MNA to immediately come to the table to negotiate so that our nurses can return to focus on what matters most: our patients.

"I know that my floor after the pandemic, we had like 40% of our nurses leave or retire." Turner said. "I don't blame any one of them."

RELATED: MDH: Increase in 'adverse health events' reflects challenges of pandemic

A study by the Illinois Economic Policy Institute found covid stress and lack of staffing have majority of nurses saying they could leave their field within a year. Over 2,200 nurses across the country surveyed in the study – 93% of them said they’re experiencing Moral Distress.

Omodt said contract negotiation talks continue next week on Aug. 11. 

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