Twin Ports nurses’ next steps after strike vote

Published: Aug. 16, 2022 at 4:20 PM CDT
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DULUTH, MN. (KBJR) - Twin Ports nurses discussed what their next steps are after voting to authorize a strike Monday.

Minnesota Nurses Association union leaders are meeting Tuesday night to discuss when they will notify hospitals of their intent to strike.

Tuesday morning at the Labor Temple in Duluth, nurses talked about their working conditions at Essentia Health Twin Ports, St. Luke’s and Lake View Hospital in Two Harbors.

Nurses said they’ve reached a boiling point.

“Nurses aren’t getting bathroom breaks, nurses aren’t getting dinner breaks, we are caring for more and more patients,” Emily Kniskern, a maternal health nurse at St. Luke’s said.

She says the working conditions at St. Luke’s aren’t sustainable.

“The staffing conditions have really just become apalling,” she said.

Her and other Twin Ports nurses voted to authorize a strike Monday. It is the latest development after months of stalled negotiations with hospital leaders and informational pickets on Duluth streets.

“My yes vote means that I trust my elected negotiating team to make that decision,” Kniskern said, “We’ve got their backs and we’re gonna stand together.”

The union said more than 2/3 of MNA nurses across Minnesota voted to authorize a strike, which put hospital leaders on notice.

St. Luke’s said Tuesday they will meet with nurses Thursday to negotiate contracts.

“The expectation that this is just what we’re going do now and this is how we run our hospitals is absolutely absurd,” Chris Rubesch, a cardiac nurse at Essentia Health Twin Ports said.

“I would certainly challenge the actual decision makers, who have the ability to solve these problems to come to the table to work with us,” he said.

Rubesch is the First Vice President for the Minnesota Nurses Association.

Union leaders are figuring out when they may give hospitals a ten day notice for a strike.

After working since March without contracts, it’s a decision they don’t take lightly.

“We want to avoid this strike as much as they do,” Rubesch said.

2,000 Twin Ports nurses could leave the bed side if they don’t come to an agreement with hospital leaders.

“We’re willing to do whatever it takes to make those conditions better,” Kniskern said.

Nurses are planning an informational picket for Friday, August 19, outside of Lake View Hospital in Two Harbors.

St. Luke’s sent a statement the reads:

“We look forward to our next MNA negotiating session this Thursday, and we remain committed to bargaining in good faith to reach a fair and reasonable contract. St. Luke’s has a long history of serving as a champion for nurses.

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.”

Essentia Health sent a statement writing:

“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.

You can learn more about the status of bargaining and our history of successful labor negotiations by visiting our public website”

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