Around 15,000 Minnesota nurses are now on a three-day strike after negotiations between hospitals and union leaders failed to produce an agreement.
The decision to strike comes after multiple failed negotiations between the Minnesota Nurses Association and hospital executives. The strike was authorized on Aug. 16 following an overwhelming vote in favor among nurses across 16 Twin Cities and Duluth-Superior hospitals.
A 10-day notice was given on Sept. 1 before the strike went into effect Monday. The strike will last through Thursday at 7 a.m.
"As we take this step, we humbly ask you, our neighbors, our community members, our community leaders, and our elected officials, to stand with us and demand that hospitals publicly pledge no retaliation to any nurse that participates in our historic strike," the Minnesota Nurses Association said in a statement.
The strike will now leave hospitals understaffed, but the Star Tribune reports hospitals have been reaching out to staffing agencies for temporary contract nurses, many of whom will be getting paid rates that are double what salaried nurses make.
"This strike is historic. Not just because it's the largest private sector nurses strike in United States history, but because it is the first time so many Minnesota nurses across the state will strike together," Mary Turner said during a news conference earlier this month. Turner serves as the president of the Minnesota Nurses Association, and also working as an intensive care nurse at North Memorial Health in Robbinsdale.
Turner said during a news conference Monday that the union and healthcare providers were bargaining well into Sunday morning. She noted that the hospitals stopped discussions and didn't plan to reschedule a meeting with the union this week. As for what happens when the strike concludes Thursday, Turner said the next steps will need to be evaluated by members of the union.
"We go back to work once the strike ends at 7 a.m. [Thursday], and we continue in our contract fight. If you're going to ask for strategy beyond these three days, that's something as a group we will have to figure out," Turner said, adding "we are hoping this will be enough to bring [providers] back to the table."
The Minnesota Nurses Association is seeking increased pay to prevent nurses from leaving the workforce, and increased staffing levels to reduce workloads.
Twin Cities Hospitals Group, which includes Children's Minnesota, North Memorial Health, Fairview Health and Park Nicollet Methodist Hospital, said the nurses' union has demanded wage increases by 32-39% over the next three-year contract. Hospitals have offered around a 10-12% wage increase instead.
The group has stated that the demands by the union are not "economically feasible," stating that community members would ultimately have to pay the price.
According to the union, chief executive officers from the seven health systems operating the 15 hospitals take home annual compensation ranging from a low end of more than $700,000 at St. Luke's, where there are co-CEOs, to the $3.5 million M Health Fairview CEO James Hereford makes.
The strike affects the following Minnesota hospitals:
- M Health Fairview University of Minnesota
- M Health Fairview Southdale in Edina
- M Health Fairview St. Joseph's Hospital in St. Paul
- M Health Fairview St. John's Hospital in Maplewood
- Essentia Health St. Mary's Medical Center in Duluth
- Essentia Health St. Mary's Hospital in Superior
- Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park
- Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis
- Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids
- United Hospital in St. Paul
- Mercy Hospital – Unity Campus in Fridley
- Children's Minnesota in Minneapolis
- Children's Minnesota in St. Paul
- North Memorial Health Hospital in Robbinsdale
- St. Luke's Hospital in Duluth
Essentia Health notes that the MNA withdrew their strike notice for the Moose Lake hospital and no strike took place, nor will it over the next three days.
The Twin Cities Hospital Group provided the following statement regarding the strike:
"The Twin Cities Hospitals Group is deeply disappointed the nurses’ union has chosen to strike before exhausting all efforts to reach an agreement. The union rejected all requests for mediation and held fast to wage demands that were unrealistic, unreasonable and unaffordable and, instead, chose to put their agenda before patients. To be clear: the union’s choice to strike is theirs and theirs alone."
The group added that their focus will be "serving our patients and our community."
Allina Health also provided the following statement to Bring Me The News:
"Allina Health is focused on delivering safe, high-quality care throughout the duration of the Minnesota Nurses Association’s 3-day strike. A strike is not our desired outcome of these negotiations, and Allina Health has been thoughtfully planning for months.
"We intentionally have built flexibility into our plans and continuously evaluate our operations. While we are making every effort to minimize disruptions to patient care, our hospitals continue to be full, and we are preparing to make the necessary adjustments to ensure we are meeting the community’s emergent and on-going health care needs.
"Patients will be contacted directly if there is any change in their appointments.Allina Health is grateful for all members of our care teams who ensure continuity of care for our patients, and we want our community members to know that our hospitals, urgent care locations and primary care clinics are open,
in addition to our virtual urgent care, virtual visits and Everyday Online care options.
"We are now focused on taking care of those who need us."
Essentia Health also provided the following statement on the strike:
"Essentia Health is disappointed the MNA is focusing its efforts on a strike instead of at the bargaining table, where real solutions are found. We continue to believe that it’s imperative for both sides to exhaust our options in pursuit of a mutually beneficial agreement. One of those options, which we’ve repeatedly requested, is mediation. Unfortunately, the union has consistently declined this request.
"Essentia is proud to have some of the finest nurses in the country. We value the outstanding care they provide while uplifting our mission of making a healthy difference in people’s lives. However, we cannot agree to the MNA’s request for a 27% wage increase because it’s not responsible.
"We want to assure our patients and communities that our hospitals will remain open and accessible during a strike. We have extensive contingency plans in place to preserve our ability to deliver the highest standards of care. Essentia’s top priority in everything we do is to improve the safety and well-being of the patients and communities we’re privileged to serve."
This is a developing story.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to reflect on the Essentia Health Moose Lake location's non-strike. The total hospital number has been changed as well from 16 to 15 because of it.