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VIRGINIA – It’s the first time nurses with Minnesota Nurses Association and Essentia Health have had to negotiate a three year contract.
Nurses said so far, they have had eight bargaining sessions since August that have resulted in little to no progress.
Nearly 50 nurses picketed on 9th St. fighting for their benefits, healthcare and patients.
With signs and solidarity, MNA nurses decided it's time for their voices to be heard beyond the bargaining sessions with Essentia Health Virginia Regional Medical Center.
"They still wanna take and take back from us, large ones," said Sally Thomas, a registered nurse.
"We're not asking for anything out of the ordinary,” said Joann Miklovich, a registered nurse. “We're not asking for anything above and beyond what anybody else wants."
The MNA is upset that their new contract with Essentia makes huge cuts to their benefits package, healthcare, pension and takes away their birthday holiday pay.
"If they get what they want they will take thousands and thousands of dollars from each individual registered nurse on the floor," said Miklovich.
Union members also claim Essentia is not living up to a promise to provide adequate staffing.
"We feel that there's not enough nurses on the floor we can't get to the nurses soon enough the patients are at risk," said Miklovich.
Essentia Health told FOX 21 their goal is not to make profits, but since Virginia Regional Medical Center is now part of Essentia Health, their mission is to align employees' benefits as close as possible with the rest of the organization.
"For efficiency and consistency and of course we want to do this in a way that's as fair as possible to the new employees and to the existing also," Essentia Health Spokesperson Kim Kaiser said.
Essentia also believes they are already on the same page as the MNA when it comes to the goal of providing great care and services to their employees and patients.
"We’ll just continue to meet and continue to try to have some movement at the bargaining table," said Kaiser.
Nurses say they will continue to picket until they reach a fair contract with Essentia.
Union members will have another negotiating session with Essentia on Oct. 28.