MNA nurses plan 3-day strike in Duluth, Twin Cities

Nurses Picketing
Nurses Picketing(KBJR6)
Published: Sep. 1, 2022 at 9:10 AM CDT
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DULUTH, MN -- Thousands of Minnesota nurses, including in Duluth, plan to strike for three days later this month.

The Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) made that announcement at a press conference held in the Twin Cities Thursday.

Union leaders said they have filed their required 10-day notice with hospital employers, including with Essentia and St. Luke’s hospitals in Duluth.

“Today, 15,000 nurses in the Twin Cities, Duluth and Superior, and Moose Lake are announcing our intent to strike,” said MNA President Mary Turner. “It is the first time so many Minnesota nurses across the state will strike together.”

The planned strike, which will begin Sept. 12, will involve 15,000 nurses statewide and 2,000 nurses in the Twin Ports. Leaders said this is the largest private-sector nursing strike in U.S. history.

“We’re pretty confident that 1,400 nurses at St. Mary’s and 500 nurses at St. Luke’s will be walking off the job on the 12th,” said Essentia Nurse and negotiations team member Chris Rubesch.

Nurses say the pandemic highlighted existing problems with staffing, and more than increased pay, nurses want a guarantee of better hours, recruiting, and retention.

The planned strike comes as contract negotiations continue with hospital management.

“I have a lot of words going through my head. frustration, disappointment, resolve. You know, we’re we’re really working to highlight the most important issue to us in these contract negotiations,” said Rubesch.

The MNA nurses voted to authorize a possible strike earlier this month after working on an expired contract since the end of June.

It’s a big step that will leave both Duluth hospitals heavily understaffed. Both hospitals say patient care will not be impacted. It’s likely travel nurses would help cover the gap.

Essentia issued the following statement:

Along with several other health systems across the state, Essentia Health on Thursday received a 10-day strike notice from the Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA). This impacts hospitals in Duluth, Superior and Moose Lake.

We are disappointed that the MNA has called a strike. It is our belief that we have a shared responsibility to care for the communities we’re privileged to serve. At Essentia, we’re proud to have some of the finest nurses in the world; they are an integral part of that commitment. We look forward to reaching an agreement that benefits them while continuing to provide expert, compassionate — and uninterrupted — care for our patients.

Progress has been made in talks, but significant gaps remain.

The MNA is seeking a 32.5% wage increase over three years. Essentia offers competitive wages, sign-on and shift bonuses, tuition reimbursement/assistance and numerous other benefits. A 32.5% wage increase on top of that package is not sustainable. We are currently offering a 10% wage increase over three years.

Because of these gaps, we have repeatedly requested mediation, which the union has consistently declined.

Please note that today’s notice does not guarantee a strike will occur. Essentia will continue to negotiate in good faith in pursuit of a mutually beneficial agreement that supports quality patient care and good local jobs. Additional bargaining sessions are scheduled for next week.

Essentia’s hospitals will remain open and accessible throughout this process. Should a strike occur, we have contingency staffing plans in place to preserve our ability to deliver the highest standards of patient care.

In response to today’s announcement, Essentia joined other Minnesota health systems in filing an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The MNA failed to give the Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services a required notice. It is our hope that by filing this charge we can return our focus to the bargaining table; we must exhaust every option to avoid a work stoppage. That is why we took this step.

We respect the MNA’s right to call a legal strike. But they have not done so in this case, and we have a responsibility to provide patient care without disruption. The MNA would challenge any perceived failure to follow regulatory process on our part. We are holding them to the same level of accountability and urging them to continue bargaining with us.

Bargaining updates can be found at essentiamnabargaining.org.

Rubesch rebutted the hospital’s claims, saying a strike is necessary to ensure proper care for patients.

“Believe me, we think about that every single day. We think about the care that I’m gonna give my patients every day I drive to the hospital and I walk in that door and I just want the resources that I need to give safe world class care to my patients,” he said.

St. Luke’s issued the following statement:

We have received MNA’s notification that St. Luke’s Hospital’s MNA-represented nurses will be on strike from 7 am on Monday, September 12 through 6:59 am on Thursday, September 15.

St. Luke’s is fully prepared to serve our patients for the duration of any MNA work stoppage and will continue to provide expert, quality care. Patient services will continue as usual.

However, MNA has not given proper notice of their intent to strike to appropriate government entities as required by federal law. Consequently, this strike is illegal. St. Luke’s, along with several other Minnesota health systems, has filed an unfair labor practice charge.

The MNA has been put on notice that engaging in a strike on September 12 would be an unlawful act, and we expect that MNA will withdraw its strike notice.

We have negotiated in good faith for several months to reach a fair and equitable contract with our nurses. We have approached each negotiating session with the intent to come to an agreement and will continue to do so at our next session on September 8. We believe both parties should be doing everything they can to avoid a strike, and we continue to call for the MNA to allow the assistance of a federal mediator.

We reached out to the MNA for comment about St. Lukes’ claims, and they replied with the following statement:

Hospital executives are now demanding nurses file an additional 30-day notice with the state Bureau of Mediation Services (BMS), despite the fact that BMS does not have jurisdiction over private sector employers. This is why hospital management has never previously questioned MNA work stoppages using this manufactured barrier, including the three-day strike at Allina’s WestHealth facility in 2021, the 2016 strikes by MNA nurses at Allina Health facilities, or the 2010 strike by Twin Cities MNA nurses.