Nursing strike continues as St. Luke’s nurses talk about current negotiations.

Published: Sep. 13, 2022 at 8:04 PM CDT
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DULUTH, MN -- Nurses across Minnesota continued their three-day strike Tuesday amid a months-long battle over contracts with local hospitals.

In the Twin Ports, nurses from St. Luke’s hospital spoke to members of the press about the state of contract negotiations.

Nurses like Larissa Hubbart expressed their desire to be back at the bedside caring for patients but said the work they’re doing is important.

“This is our entire lives. We give up birthdays, we give up holidays, we give up our weekends and nights,” she said, “I don’t want to change the world. I just want to make my corner of the world a bit better.”

Nurses continue to echo that their main concerns are over staffing and benefits.

“We do not have any paid maternity leave whatsoever,” said Emily Kniskern, another nurse at St. Luke’s.

Kniskern alleges the hospital does not provide staff with guaranteed paid maternity leave, nor do they offer bereavement for mothers with recent stillbirths and miscarriages.

“Management has been trying to haggle with us, saying well we’ll count pregnancies over 28 weeks, maybe 20 weeks. When asked why, they said some of the nastiest grossest things I’ve ever heard come out of an executive mouth,” Kniskern said.

When asked about their leave policies, the hospital issued the following statement:

Staff nurses are guaranteed 6 months off for maternity leave. They can use all sick time, vacation time, or personal days to cover their leave.

St. Luke’s nurses can use paid sick time after experiencing a miscarriage. St. Luke’s has made clear that nurses who miss work as a result of a miscarriage will be fully excused from their shifts without penalty.

The hospital also claims the MNA’s requested 30.5 percent wage increase over the next three years would have cost the hospital around $ 20 million a year.

They countered with an offer of 10.25%

In the most recent negotiations, the MNA dropped its wage increase proposal by six percent, to 24.5%.

St. Luke’s increased their counter by .25% to 10.5%.

Though tensions remain high on the picket lines, nurses like Hubbart say they’re ready to return to the bedside come Thursday.

“It’s challenging, but ultimately, we’re professionals. So we have to get back to work. We have patients to take care of and jobs to do,” she said.

Below is St. Luke’s full statement from Tuesday:

St. Luke’s Hospital is not on divert. All areas of our hospital are open for patients, and we have been accepting and caring for patients from across the region.

We will welcome our nurses back to St. Luke’s on Thursday morning at 7 am.

St. Luke’s supports bringing in a federal mediator. A mediator uses their expertise to help the parties find common areas of agreement they may not have identified themselves. They are skilled at understanding when parties should be talking across the table and when the parties should be working independently so that an agreement can be reached.

RN nurse managers, including an RN Administrative Supervisor, are on-site 24/7/365. In addition, we also always have a Director and member of the Executive Team on call.

Proposals by MNA leadership aim to prioritize a nurse’s preference over patient needs. No single individual at St. Luke’s, including physicians and administrators, has the ability to refuse to provide care to a patient. These decisions must be made by a healthcare team, including nurses, who understand the needs of patients in every unit of the hospital.

St. Luke’s has talked extensively with MNA about staffing, and the reality is that many of the proposals made by union leaders would hurt staffing, rather than improve it. For example:

MNA wants to require St. Luke’s to give evening and night nurses an additional day off before a scheduled vacation day.

MNA wants to prevent nurses on units that are overstaffed for a shift from being reassigned to other units to take care of patients.

MNA wants to prevent trained, qualified nurses who are not in the union from picking up shifts that remain unfilled by union nurses.

Staff nurses are guaranteed 6 months off for maternity leave. They can use all sick time, vacation time, or personal days to cover their leave.

St. Luke’s nurses can use paid sick time after experiencing a miscarriage. St. Luke’s has made clear that nurses who miss work as a result of a miscarriage will be fully excused from their shifts without penalty.