Minnesota nurses to vote on strike motion Monday

Duluth Nurses Address Press
Duluth Nurses Address Press(KBJR/CBS3 Duluth)
Published: Aug. 11, 2022 at 6:03 PM CDT
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ST. PAUL, MN. (KBJR) - The Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) will vote Monday on whether they want to go on strike amid contract negotiations with hospital leaders.

At a news conference Thursday, organization leaders said the vote will happen Monday, August 15, with results announced August 16 in Duluth.

If the vote passes with a supermajority, nurses would give hospital leaders ten days before officially leaving the bedside. The MNA has not clarified what percentage of votes a “supermajority” would be, as the term is wide-ranging.

Union leaders said around 15,000 nurses have been working in healthcare facilities without contracts since March of this year.

Two thousand of those nurses working without a contract are in the Twin Ports.

Just last week, nurses in the union voted “no confidence” in hopsital leaders, blaming them for stalling negotiations.

If the vote passes, the MNA said it would be one of the largest nursing strikes in history.

Several pickets have been held at hospitals across Minnesota, in efforts to put pressure on hospital leaders to give nurses more pay and to address staffing issues.

Chris Rubesch, a cardiac nurse at Essentia Health Twin Ports and First Vice President of the MNA, announced Thursday that a nursing strike might happen soon.

“Nurses at Essentia Twin Ports will be joining with our coworkers from across the state in holding a strike authorization vote this coming Monday,.. Because our petitions, our press conferences, our informational picket have failed to get the attention of our hospital leaders,” Rubesch said.

Twin Ports nurses have attempted for months to negotiate their contracts with hospitals like Essentia and St Luke’s.

“Like nowhere else, I’ve been pushed past my breaking point,” one nurse said.

Earlier this month, Rubesch said the union was gearing up for a strike. He said it wasn’t off the table.

“That’s not a word that we’re afraid to say, those are conversations we are actively having,” he said.

Both Essentia Health Twin Ports and Saint Luke’s have been in talks with nurses for months.

Rubesch mentioned Essentia’s almost billion dollar project on a new health facility. He’d rather see money spent on pay for healthcare workers.

“They seem to have forgotten the most important piece of our healthcare system, the staff they need to work inside the building,” Rubesch said.

Rubesch hopes the nurses won’t ultimately have to leave the bedside.

“We hope that we can reach agreements that attract the next generation of healthcare workers and retain our current highly skilled healthcare staff,” he said.

Essentia Health sent the following statement on the impending vote:

“Essentia Health will continue to negotiate in good faith and is committed to reaching an agreement that benefits our nurses, provides expert, compassionate care for our patients and promotes stewardship for our organization. Essentia provides pay and benefits that help us remain competitive in the communities we’re privileged to serve, and we are continuously exploring innovative ways to enhance the recruitment and professional development of our nurses. Essentia has a long history of reaching mutually acceptable agreements while avoiding work stoppages.”

St. Luke’s sent the following statement on the MNA’s contract negotiations:

“Mary Turner claimed today that MNA’s entire economic package amounts to a 30% increase. This is false. At our negotiating table, MNA is demanding over a 50% increase.

MNA’s salary demand alone is 36.5% over three years, or more than a 12% increase per year. That means the average nurse currently making $50/hour would be making $70/hour. We’re committed to competitive compensation for all our employees and a fair contract, but MNA’s demands are unreasonable.

Here’s how MNA’s wage request stacks up with other recently settled contracts:

• City of Duluth employees: +8% over 3 years

• Duluth Teachers: +4.5% over 2 years

• Minnesota Health Care Professional Unit (includes Nurses who are represented by MNA): +5% over 2 years”

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