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Minnesota nurses set Dec. 11 strike date, plan 3-week walkout

Updated: 10:13 a.m.

Members of the Minnesota Nurses Association have set a strike date of Dec. 11 if a long-running stalemate in contract talks isn’t resolved. Union nurses walked out for three days in September. This time, they say most nurses will be out three weeks.

The strike plan covers more than a dozen hospitals in the Twin Cities and Duluth regions. It would run from 7 a.m. Dec. 11 to 7 a.m. Dec. 31 at most of the affected hospitals. Nurses voted “overwhelmingly” on Wednesday to authorize the strike, the union said in a statement.

Nurses with the St. Luke’s system in Duluth and Two Harbors, Minn., have chosen to strike with no end date set, the union said.

The vote came just over two months after nurses with 15,000-member union walked out in a historic three-day strike that affected more than a dozen hospitals in the Twin Cities and Twin Ports. Since then, health care providers across Minnesota and the country have been dealing with an uptick of respiratory illnesses, like RSV and influenza.

“We never wanted to get to this point,” said MNA President Mary Turner. “When we came back from our last strike in September, we hoped our hospital executives would hear us about the urgency of the crisis in our hospitals. But since then, things have gotten worse and not better.”

Turner said that since September, nurses have come down on their wage demands — from around 30 percent increases to 20 percent — and adjusted their staffing requests.

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Rather than requiring staffing changes on a floor to be approved by 51 percent of nurses working there, hospitals would instead use tracked quality measures — like falls and other injuries. If they collectively reach 50 percent, the proposal calls for a staffing assessment and, potentially, an increase of a certain number of nurses.

The Allina Health hospital system on Thursday said it was disappointed by the developments and claimed that union leadership “continues to focus on disruption at the expense of spending meaningful time at the bargaining table.”

In a statement, Allina said it has “plans in place to continue caring for our community with as few disruptions to care as possible” and that another negotiating session was set for Friday.

Thursday’s vote affects the same hospitals as the previous strike, as well as an additional one — St. Luke’s Lake View Hospital in Two Harbors. Earlier this week, union officials had said another hospital, Essentia Moose Lake, would also participate in the strike vote, but negotiators reached a tentative agreement this week.

Officials from other health care systems in the past advocated for an independent, third-party mediator be included in negotiations. At a media event before the vote, Turner said that the union has authorized involving a mediator in the process, but is leaving the decision up to individual bargaining teams.

“If they want a mediator, they can use a mediator,” she said. “So we’re not dead-set against it anymore, but we have left it up to the local.”

In a statement before the vote, officials with St. Luke’s said they “look forward to our negotiating session tomorrow. While MNA has agreed to allow a mediator to observe, we remain hopeful that MNA will allow the mediator to participate in the process. We believe having a mediator is the next best step toward reaching an agreement and avoiding a strike. We know our nurses want to be at the bedside doing what they do best: caring for patients.”

Some bargaining sessions are planned at hospitals this week. The union said the following hospitals and systems would be affected by a possible strike:

M Health Fairview system

  • Riverside, Minneapolis

  • Southdale, Edina

  • St. Joseph’s, St. Paul

  • St. John’s, Maplewood

Essentia Health

Allina Health

Children’s Minnesota, Twin Cities

  • Children’s Minneapolis

  • Children’s St. Paul

St. Luke’s

North Memorial, Robbinsdale

HealthPartners, Methodist Hospital, St. Louis Park