The strike continues: Nurses at Allina Health reject latest contract proposal

This could go down as the longest nursing strike in Minnesota history.

Nurses voted Monday to reject the latest contract proposal brought forward by Allina Health, meaning their open-ended, unfair labor practices strike will continue.

The Minnesota Nurses Association, which represents nearly 5,000 Allina Health nurses at five Twin Cities hospitals, said Monday that at this point there are no plans to return to the negotiating table to work out a deal both sides can agree on.

The strike, which began Sept. 5, could become the longest nursing strike in Minnesota history, the Star Tribune reports. The longest nurses strike was back in 1984 – it lasted 38 days, the paper says.

Progress – but not enough, nurses say

The latest proposal, which Allina Health offered last week, included a wage increase, bonuses, a transition plan to new health insurance coverage, as well as workplace safety provisions the union proposed, Allina said in a statement on its website, noting the proposal was "eminently fair and went very far in addressing the issues the union raised during negotiations."

But it wasn't far enough, the union says.

“The nurses felt that although some progress was made in negotiations with Allina it wasn’t enough progress,” Angela Becchetti, a nurse at Abbott Northwestern Hospital and a member of the negotiating team, said in the news release. “Nurses felt that the proposal took more away from nurses than it offered. Nurses said they would end their affordable healthcare plans in the year 2020, but they haven’t been adequately compensated for it.”

The stakes are high

The strike began on Labor Day at five Twin Cities hospitals: Phillips Eye Institute in Minneapolis, United in St. Paul, Abbott Northwestern in Minneapolis, Unity in Fridley and Mercy in Coon Rapids.

And the stakes of the strike have been rising – for both the nurses and Allina Health.

In order to still qualify for their union health insurance, nurses had to return to work before Oct. 1. Those who didn't cross the picket line have to pay COBRA if they want to continue their health insurance coverage.

“If Allina felt that nurses would accept anything just to return to work in October and get our health insurance back, they were mistaken,” Becchetti said in the news release. “This vote should tell Allina that nurses are strong and willing to hold out for a contract that respects their sacrifice and their profession.”

The longer the strike goes on, the more it's costing Allina Health too. The nurses' one-week strike back in June cost the health care system $20 million to pay for the part-time nurses who are covering for the striking nurses, WCCO reported.

Work Day Minnesota says Allina is spending 10 times what it would cost it to settle the contract on replacement nurses.

Allina hired roughly 1,500 temporary nurses, the Pioneer Press reported, while nearly 600 nurses have crossed the picket line and are working instead of striking, Allina Health says.

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