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Minnesota Nurses Association announces 3-day strike — largest in U.S. history

The strike, which includes 15,000 nurses across 16 hospitals in the Twin Cities, Twin Ports and Moose Lake, will begin Sept. 12.

Mary Turner speaks at a podium
Mary Turner, president of the Minnesota Nurses Association, speaks at a news conference asking Essentia Health to respect nurses' labor union rights March 30 at the Duluth Labor Temple.
Laura Butterbrodt / 2022 file / Duluth News Tribune
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ST. PAUL — Nurses at 16 hospitals will strike Sept. 12-15, the Minnesota Nurses Association announced Thursday morning, Sept. 1. Nurses have been bargaining with hospitals for new contracts since March, and say the nursing shortage is a crisis.

The strike will begin at 7 a.m. Sept. 12 and end at 7 a.m. Sept. 15, affecting three day shifts, three evening shifts and three night shifts. Approximately 15,000 MNA nurses in the Twin Cities, Twin Ports and Moose Lake will participate in the strike — the largest private-sector nurses strike in U.S. history.

The following hospitals will be affected by the strike:

  • M Health Fairview Riverside, Minneapolis
  • M Health Fairview Southdale, Edina
  • M Health Fairview St. Joseph's, St. Paul
  • M Health Fairview St. John's, Maplewood
  • Essentia Health St. Mary's, Duluth
  • Essentia Health St. Mary's, Superior, Wisconsin
  • Essentia Health Moose Lake
  • HealthPartners Methodist, St. Louis Park
  • Allina Health Abbott Northwestern, Minneapolis
  • Allina Health Mercy, Coon Rapids
  • Allina Health United, St. Paul
  • Allina Health Unity, Fridley
  • Children's Minneapolis
  • Children's St. Paul
  • North Memorial, Robbinsdale
  • St. Luke's, Duluth

About 12,500 nurses in the Twin Cities area and 2,500 nurses in the Duluth-Superior region will participate in the strike.

During the announcement news conference in St. Paul, MNA President Mary Turner said no progress has been made in bargaining since the strike authorization, which nurses voted in favor of Aug. 16. MNA is required to give a 10-day notice before striking to give hospitals an opportunity to find replacement staff and to arrange patient appointment scheduling.

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"Over a decade ago, our issue was safe staffing," Turner said of MNA bargaining. "Twelve years later, it's the same thing. The difference is, our health care and our profession are in crisis."

Turner and other Twin Cities nurses spoke about unsafe conditions nurses have faced due to a lack of staffing, and the risks patients face when being treated at understaffed hospitals.

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"This past weekend, we had 14-hour wait times in our emergency room," said Brianna Hnath, a nurse at North Memorial Hospital in Robbinsdale. "Several of our units were told to 'flex up,' just take more patients with not enough nurses. If things continue on as are, this will become a new normal. Nurses will continue to leave the bedside, and patients will bear the brunt of this."

Turner said all hospitals have negotiating sessions scheduled in the upcoming days, and she believes conversation will move forward more quickly now that the strike has been set. As of now, the strike is only set for three days, but Turner said things could change as they continue bargaining in the next two weeks.

"As far as the future goes, we can only hope these 10 days motivate them to take us seriously," Turner said. "We don't have plans beyond this because we are hoping that these 10 days will bring about resolution."

If no settlement is made after the three-day strike, MNA members would need to vote to authorize another strike.

Many hospital systems, including St. Luke's and Essentia in Duluth, have repeatedly asked for mediators to join bargaining sessions, which Turner said is something MNA wants to introduce when they are closer to making a deal. However, she said the idea is not completely off the table.

"We aren't asking for unreasonable items in our contract," said Katie Donner, a nurse at M Health Fairview St. John's Hospital. "More security, panic buttons, better staffing, retention programs, COVID recognition, mental health care for our nurses post-pandemic — to name a few items."

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Nurses are also asking for a 30% raise over three years, which Duluth hospital executives have countered with offers of 10% over three years.

In a statement, Allina Health said it believes the union's decision to strike is premature, and that progress had been made at its most recent negotiating session.

"We are disappointed the union is choosing to rush to a strike before exhausting all options, like engaging a mediator in negotiations which they have repeatedly rejected," Allina said in the statement. "We know agreement on important issues for both parties is possible, and it is our preference to get back to the bargaining table with the help of a mediator.

"However, a work stoppage does not change our commitment to providing safe and reliable care to our communities and we have plans in place to continue providing care throughout the duration of the work stoppage."

Laura Butterbrodt covers health for the Duluth News Tribune. She has a bachelor of arts in journalism from South Dakota State University and has been working as a reporter in Minnesota and South Dakota since 2014.
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