Minnesota Nurses Association And Twin Ports Hospitals Talk About Strike Authorization

DULUTH, Minn. – On Monday night, the Minnesota Nurses Association voted to authorize a strike after contract negotiations with major hospitals in the Twin Ports have dragged out for months, leading to a stalemate.

“We are here today, the nurses here behind me, the nurses that are working in our hospitals today, bargaining units across the state. We are here with one voice and one message that staffing needs to be addressed now and that we want hospital management decision makers to come to the table and help us solve this problem,” Essentia RN, Chris Rubesch says.

A possible nurses’ strike could be the largest in history after the union representing 15,000 nurses voted in favor of it.

Tuesday, Nurses in the Twin Ports gathered at the Labor Temple in Duluth to explain their vote to authorize a strike. Two nurses from Essentia, two from St. Luke’s, and one from Lakeview in Two Harbors described their recent experience and struggles with low staffing and retention.

“This problem is so severe that we just can’t sit by, we can’t accept the status quo, we can’t accept our hospitals not responding to our staffing problems and we have to take this action to address those issues,” Rubesch says.

This strike authorization comes after five months of negotiations with hospitals. Twin Ports nurses have been working without contracts since June and those in the Twin Cities since May.

“This month alone, I have had to call five different women to say, “I know that you are supposed to come in and have your labor induced, we do not have enough nurses to safely do that.” These women have taken maternity leave, grandparents are in town to take care of the older kids, the hospital bags are packed. And, I have to be the one to call them and say, “I’m so sorry, we don’t have enough nurses.” This is unsafe and unacceptable,” St. Luke’s RN, Andrea Rubesch says.

This Friday, nurses at the Lakeview Hospital in Two Harbors will have an informational picket to highlight the need for adequate staffing.

“We are on the brink of losing many Lakeview nurses. We need management to acknowledge the reality of the staffing crisis and the detrimental effects it has to patient and staff wellbeing, instead of retaliating against the nurses and hiding behind false numbers,” Two Harbors RN, Jerri Swardstrom says.

Nurses across the state say a strike would be a stand for patient safety, staff retention, and the future of the nursing profession.

“When we respect nurses, when we hire enough nurses, when we make the hospital a place where nurses want to work, we can provide the best care in the world. But, we need nurses at the bedside,” Andrea Rubesch says.

The vote to authorize a strike allows bargaining units to give a 10 day legally required notice to hospital employers to make preparations before any strike takes place.

Bargaining units across the state say they will be working closely together to decide if and when this notice will be given.

Both major hospitals in the Twin Ports sent new statements out after the vote:

Essentia Health’s statement:

“Patient care is our primary concern and Essentia Health is proud to have some of the best nurses in the country.

We are disappointed by the vote because we believe no one wins in a strike – and we have a shared responsibility to provide quality care to the patients and communities we are privileged to serve. Should it become necessary, we have contingency plans to ensure we can continue to care for our patients in the event of an MNA strike. Please note, however, that this vote does not mean a strike is imminent; if the union decides to strike, it is required to give a 10-day notice.

We are confident we can reach a new agreement that continues to support quality patient care and good local jobs because of our strong track record of reaching mutually beneficial agreements.”

St. Luke’s statement: 

“We are proud to recognize the important contributions of our nurses and all employees by offering competitive compensation packages and exceptional benefits, while also striving to keep healthcare affordable for our community. We believe our offer of a 10.25% wage increase over 3 years is fair and reasonable. MNA continues asking for a 36.5% wage increase over 3 years.

We will again ask MNA to agree to inviting a mediator to join us at the table. Mediators are trained professionals who can assist in successfully negotiating contracts when the two sides are far apart.

We want to reassure our patients that we are actively planning. If MNA chooses to strike, they are required to give us at least a 10-day notice before the actual strike. At that point we will finalize our plans, so we will be ready and able to continue providing safe, quality care for our community during any work stoppage.”

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