WHAT’S NEXT: On third and final day of historic strike, nurses talk next steps

Published: Sep. 14, 2022 at 8:35 PM CDT
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DULUTH, MN -- Wednesday marked the third and final day of a strike put on by the Minnesota Nurses Association.

15,000 nurses statewide, including 2,000 in the Twin Ports protested and picketed outside hospitals amid stalled contract negotiations.

Nurses say above all, they’re seeking better staffing and employee benefits, but they’re also hoping to secure better wages.

As for the strike itself, they hope it sends the right message.

“First and foremost, we’re hoping that this brings the parties brings management back to the table and gets us to contract settlement,” said Chris Rubesch, First Vice President of the Minnesota Nurses Association, “So what’s next is we go back to the table and we hopefully have constructive dialogue with management engaging us and responding on our top priority, which is staffing.”

Rubesch claims negotiations last Saturday night were the first time hospitals addressed their staffing proposal.

“Saturday, management for the first time responded to our staffing proposal. We felt like it was a starting point that we could finally start to have those discussions. Unfortunately, that was at the 11th hour and they decided to walk away from the table,” he said.

He and other nurses are eager to return to the table, hoping to grow closer to a deal.

MNA reps told us as of Wednesday, Essentia has reached out to them with a few suggested negotiation dates.

In the meantime, he says they’re ready to get back to work tomorrow.

“We’re really happy to be able to return to the bedside tomorrow morning at 7 am to do that job,” he said.

Essentia issued the following statement Wednesday:

“All of our staffing needs are being met to provide safe, high-quality health care for our patients and the community. We will welcome all our nurses back at 7 a.m., Thursday. We look forward to returning to the bargaining table because that’s where solutions occur.”

St. Luke’s issued the following statement:

MNA leadership is telling its members that St. Luke’s refuses to work with them on issues regarding staffing, working conditions, and wages. That is not true. We have actively engaged in these topics during 17 negotiating sessions, dating back to late April.

Every industry is facing workforce shortages, including health care. Nurses have tremendous choices in where and how they want to work, and we respect that choice. Some leave the bedside to choose lucrative travel assignments. Others choose to work as an RN in a clinical or office setting and often have regular weekday hours.

We are doing everything we can to recruit new nurses, train the nursing workforce of the future, and retain the nurses we have. We have also added new roles and are using technology more than ever to support nurses.

Since January 2021, we have hired 163 MNA RNs and continue to hire more.

St. Luke’s provides competitive wages that recognize our nurses for their time and talents.

  • RN with a 2-year degree and no experience: $35.63/hour*, $74,1104/year* (full time)
  • RN with a 2-year degree and 7 years of full-time experience: $46.84/hour*, $97,427/year* (full-time)
  • RN who picks up an overtime shift with bonus pay on average makes $93.18/hour**

In addition, RNs who work a .6 FTE or greater receive the same health and dental insurance benefits as 1.0 FTE, plus vacation time, sick time, pension, 401K match, and long-term disability.

*This base pay rate excludes shift differential, weekend bonus, and other premium pay (OT, double time, holiday, critical need bonus, etc.)

**$45.45 average/hourly rate x 1.5x OT + $25/hour critical need bonus = $93.18/hour

The above rates are based on our most recent contract, which expired on June 30, 2022, and we continue to honor them. MNA’s proposals would significantly increase these wages.

We will welcome our nurses back to St. Luke’s as scheduled, starting at 7 am on Thursday morning. There will not be a lockout.

The next negotiation date has not been set. St. Luke’s remains willing to return to the negotiations table.