Around 15,000 nurses in Minnesota are set to go on strike for the second time since September, the Minnesota Nurses Association announced late Wednesday night.
The motion to strike "passed overwhelmingly" after a vote was held Wednesday, with union leaders saying working conditions have become "worse, not better," since the September strike produced no deal with hospitals.
Two-thirds of members were required to vote in favor in order for it to pass. It now gives the union the ability to call a strike with 10 days notice. Nurses will walk out beginning Dec. 11, according to an update later Thursday morning.
According to the MNA, the organization claims it has made "every effort to negotiate in good faith and win fair contracts at the negotiating table." They accuse hospital executives of subjecting nurses to unfair labor practices, citing their refusal to bargain with union leaders to reach an agreement that betters working conditions for employees and addresses staffing shortages.
In addition to the Twin Cities, other hospitals involved are located in the Twin Ports and Two Harbors areas.
According to the MNA, 16 hospitals in the state will be affected should a strike go ahead.
“Our hospitals are in crisis, and our CEOs have failed nurses and patients. They have failed to solve the crisis of patient care, and they have failed to solve the crisis of working conditions pushing nurses away from the bedside,” said MNA President Mary Turner in a statement.
“Nurses are fighting to win contracts that will help nurses stay on the job to provide patients with the exceptional care they deserve. Hospital CEOs with million-dollar salaries can afford to put patients before profits in our hospitals and to do right by Minnesota nurses.”
On Wednesday, Turner outlined specific areas of concern, noting heavily understaffed hospitals and workplace violence as two reasons for the strike.
The union has been without a contract since June, with negotiations beginning in March. Wages have been a sticking point at the negotiating table, with tentative agreements reached on workplace safety measures and practices related to diversity, equity and inclusion.
MNA leaders have sought wage increases by 39% over the life of the next three-year contract, according to hospital leaders. Turner said that they've lowered their wage increase-demands "down to 20%" over a proposed three-year deal.
During the last round of negotiations, hospitals said they offered around a 10-12% increase over three years, claiming it's the largest wage increase they have offered in the past 15 years.
Twin Cities Hospital Group provided the following statement to Bring Me The News on Thursday:
"The Twin Cities Hospitals Group is shocked and deeply disappointed that the nurses’ union has once again chosen to issue 10-day strike notices throughout the metro and Duluth before exhausting all reasonable efforts to reach an agreement. Our negotiators have made progress in many areas, and while gaps remain, we are confident progress can continue to be made by remaining engaged at the table. It has barely been a week since the union finally agreed to bring expert mediators to assist the parties in reaching mutually agreeable solutions. Not one meeting with mediators has even occurred yet, but the union has elected to pursue a strike rather than settlement. It is clear that their recent statements in support of mediation were disingenuous. The nurses’ union has completely failed to give the mediation process time to work and instead has chosen to put the union’s agenda before the care of our patients.
"Let us be clear: the union’s choice to issue 10-day strike notices is theirs and theirs alone. The nurses were not forced to do this and they chose to issue their 10-day strike notices in the midst of the triple threat of illnesses, RSV, COVID and influenza, that are already stressing our health care system. The nurses’ union 10-day strike notices are completely contrary to the best interests of our patients and the communities we serve. Their announcement today is entirely inconsistent with their claim that they are acting to protect patients. Any claim to the contrary is false. We do not believe that our nurses support this radical action.
"Over the coming 10 days, our negotiators will be available to negotiate in good faith and we will exhaust all means necessary to avoid a work stoppage. We expect the nurses’ union to do the same, including being fully engaged at all tables with a mediator.
"We need to stress our hospitals will be open during this 10-day period although your care providers may need to reschedule non-critical care procedures. Our hospital leadership have robust contingency plans in place and will make adjustments as necessary to ensure continuity of care."
Allina Health also provided a statement in reaction to the strike authorization:
"We are deeply disappointed by Minnesota Nurse’s Association’s choice to issue a strike notice when our community is experiencing a triple threat of illnesses – influenza, RSV and COVID - and before they have exhausted all available options to reach agreement. Providing the necessary care for our community during this surge of seasonal illness, in addition to the many other health care needs of our patients, has put unprecedented stress on Minnesota’s health care system. To be clear, the union is deciding to further withdraw critical health care resources at a time when the community’s healthcare needs are high and at the risk of those who are depending on us for care.
"MNA leadership continues to focus on disruption at the expense of spending meaningful time at the bargaining table. We have made some progress and believe we can reach agreement on the outstanding issues with focused negotiations. Allina Health has repeatedly asked the union to join us in employing a neutral, independent mediator to help us resolve our remaining differences. The use of a mediator is a regular part of collective bargaining and a proven method of reaching agreement as has happened with our previous successful negotiations.
"Allina Health remains committed to reaching an agreement that reflects the valuable contributions of our nurses and will negotiate with the union again on Dec. 2. While we are hopeful a deal can be reached, we want to assure the public that we have plans in place to continue caring for our community with as few disruptions to care as possible.
"We will work directly with patients on any necessary adjustments to ensure continuity of care and will provide regular updates to our patients and communities over the coming days. For more information, please visit allinahealth.org."
This is a developing story. It will be updated with more information as it is learned.