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Thousands of nurses at 5 Twin Cities hospitals begin open-ended strike

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Thousands of nurses from five Twin Cities hospitals walked off the job Monday morning to begin an open-ended strike.

This unfair labor practices strike comes after months of negotiations with Allina Health over the nurses’ health care coverage (read more on this at the bottom of the page).

The strike began at 7 a.m. Monday, and will go until the two sides can reach a deal. Though, no new negotiations date has been set, according to the Minnesota Nurses Association, which represents the nearly 5,000 nurses who work at Allina Health hospitals in the Twin Cities.

The five hospitals affected are: Abbott Northwestern HospitalMercy HospitalPhillips Eye InstituteUnited Hospital and Unity Hospital. Allina Health clinic or urgent care locations are not affected, the health care system's website says.

The nurses previously held a seven-day strike at these hospitals back in June.

Allina says it's ready

Allina Health says it is ready to provide care to patients during the strike, with the Star Tribune reporting it has hired 1,500 temporary nurses from around the country to help make sure things run smoothly.

And about 350 regular nurses have said they will cross the picket lines (that's double the amount who did back in June), the paper says.

The nurses who are on strike have also agreed to return to the hospital if an emergency medical situation arises that the replacement nurses can't handle alone, a news release from the Minnesota Nurses Association says.

"Nurses care for their patients, even beyond the bedside," Angela Becchetti, a nurse at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, said in a news release. "If Allina calls us, we would come back in to deal with medical emergencies."

Why are they striking?

Allina wants to move the nurses onto its corporate health plan, instead of the union-backed health plans, which Allina says are expensive.

But the union says the plan will cost nurses more in out-of-pocket expenses, noting the nurses have a high risk of getting a workplace-related illness or injury.

MPR News reported on an independent review of both the corporate health plan and the nurses’ union health coverage, finding they were both “generous.”

For more information on the strike, check out the negotiations pages of both the Minnesota Nurses Association (here) and Allina Health (here).

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