15,000 Minnesota nurses authorize strike against seven health systems

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Members of the Minnesota Nurses Association voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike against seven health systems in the Twin Cities and Duluth, union officials say.

The vote Monday gave nurse negotiators the ability to call a strike, with a 10-day notice to employers. The union represents 15,000 nurses. The next negotiation session is set for Aug. 30.

Union officials said one of the biggest issues is retention with understaffing contributing to overwork and professional burnout. They said nurses are caring for twice as many patients as normal and that while the conditions existed before the COVID-19 pandemic, they’re worse now.

Union officials say 15 hospitals and would be affected by the strike, including those operated by Allina Health, M Health Fairview, Children’s Hospital, North Memorial and HealthPartners. In Duluth, it’s Essentia and St Luke’s.

Allina Health said it has plans in place to care for patients during any work stoppage, but wasn’t specific.

“Despite the on-going challenges being felt by Allina Health and throughout the nonprofit health care industry, we have offered an economic package that includes a wage increase of 11% over the three years of the contract, as well as additional compensation benefits. We have also demonstrated our commitment to many of the union’s priority issues, such as diversity, equity and inclusion, safety and security, and recruitment and retention,” Allina said in a statement

Nurses have been working since March to reach a deal and have been working without a contract for the past few months, the union said.

“Nurses do not take this decision lightly, but we are determined to take a stand at the bargaining table, and on the sidewalk if necessary, to put patients before profits in our hospitals,” union President Mary Turner said in a statement.

When Minnesota nurses went on a one-day strike in 2010, hospitals hired 2,800 replacement nurses, called in extra non-union staff and reduced patient levels. Some hospitals rescheduled elective surgeries.