Minnesota Nurses Association to Strike Beginning December 11

DULUTH, Minn. — It’s been just three months since nurses with the Minnesota Nurses Association were walking the picket lines. But in ten days, nurses with St. Luke’s and Essentia could once again be on strike. This time it could be for a much longer time than the three-day strike in September.

At a Thursday morning news conference, Lisa Hulstrom, a nurse at St. Luke’s said, “Nurses at St. Luke’s have spoken and we have voted to authorize a strike beginning on December 11th.”

Nurses have repeatedly stated “Patients before Profits,” and Thursday morning nurses continued that theme. They also want to be recognized for their education and experience working with patients as well as the sacrifices they have made over the past two-plus years.

Corrine Schraufnagel, a nurse from Essentia Health, said, “I ask our executives to extend trust, respect and acknowledgement of the wisdom and spirit of nurses and to finally address our concerns about the state of staffing and nurse retention in our hospital by putting it in writing in our contract.”

If a new contract is not agreed upon by Dec. 11, most nurses will begin a 20-day strike through the end of the year. However, nurses from St. Luke’s will not have a pre-determined end date.

The two sides have been negotiating for the past seven months.

One nurse who was on hand this morning, Andrea Rahsech, had her five-month-old son, Oskar with her.  She had an interesting way to measure how long the negotiations have been going on.

“I would just like to add that Oskar was inside me when we started this and he’s five months on Saturday, so we’ve been at this for a really long time,” said Rahsech.

Nurses in the Duluth area have been working without a contract since June 30. If no agreement is reached by Dec. 11, Duluth nurses and nurses at 14 other hospitals across the state will be on strike, and it could be for an extended time.

Essentia released a statement in response to the vote:

“We recognize there is a significant shortage of nurses affecting health systems across the country. Despite those challenges, Essentia has hired almost 500 new nurses over the past year and a half and we continue working hard to recruit even more. That’s why our current proposal would have a new hospital nurse in the Twin Ports making $77,000 annually to start and more than $100,000 by year 3.”

St. Luke’s released a statement in response to the vote:

“St. Luke’s is committed to working towards a resolution with the MNA. During today’s negotiations, we made significant progress, and we will stay at the table as long as that continues, including through tonight, into tomorrow and through the weekend.”

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