15,000 MN nurses vote to authorize strike

(ABC 6 News) – Monday, 15,000 nurses with the Minnesota Nurses Association voted to authorize a strike.

According to MNA, nurses who work at seven hospitals in the Twin Cities and Duluth area have been working without a contract since June, and negotiations with hospital executives have been going on since March.

MNA plans to hold a press conference in St. Paul and Duluth to address the strike.

The full press release reads:

Today 15,000 nurses with the Minnesota Nurses Association in the Twin Cities and Twin Ports voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike in their fight for fair contracts to hold healthcare executives accountable to put patients before profits. The strike authorization comes as nurses have negotiated for five months with hospital executives and have worked without contracts for the last several months.

“Hospital executives with million-dollar salaries have created a crisis of retention and care in our healthcare system, as more nurses are leaving the bedside, putting quality patient care at risk,” said Mary C. Turner, RN at North Memorial Hospital and President of the Minnesota Nurses Association. “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.”

Right now in Minnesota, nurses are overworked, hospitals are understaffed, and patients are overcharged. While hospital CEOs with multi-million-dollar salaries have refused to negotiate with nurses over solutions to the crises of short-staffing, retention and patient care, the problems are getting worse: recent studies show that more nurses are planning to leave the bedside while adverse events for patients are increasing.

“Corporate healthcare policies in our hospitals have left nurses understaffed and overworked, while patients are overcharged, local hospitals and services are closed, and executives take home million-dollar paychecks,” said Chris Rubesch, RN at Essentia in Duluth and First Vice President of the Minnesota Nurses Association. “Nurses have one priority in our hospitals, to take care of our patients, and we are determined to fight for fair contracts so nurses can stay at the bedside to provide the quality care our patients deserve.”

Nurses voted overwhelmingly to authorize the strike, which required a supermajority of votes to pass. The vote authorizes nurse negotiation leaders to call a strike following a 10-day notice to hospital employers. Such a strike of 15,000 nurses would be one of the largest nurses strikes in U.S. history, and would be the first time Twin Cities and Twin Ports nurses took such an action together in contract negotiations. Today’s vote covers nurses at working 15 hospitals under seven hospital systems.

Since negotiations began in March, nurses have pressed hospital executives both at the bargaining table and in public over the need to negotiate with nurses to solve the crises of short-staffing, retention and care in our hospitals. Nurses held informational pickets at 15 hospitals throughout the state in June, launched an advertising campaign exposing the effects of corporate healthcare policies in Minnesota hospitals and last week announced that nurses had voted “No Confidence” in hospital executives.

Minnesota hospital CEOs have refused to address these issues in negotiations with nurses, leading nurses to take Monday’s vote to authorize a strike of 15,000 Minnesota nurses. Nurses in the Twin Cities have been working without a contract since theirs expired on May 31, 2022; contracts for nurses in the Twin Ports expired on June 30, 2022.

While nurses seek solutions to short staffing and retention, hospital executives have insisted on focusing on wages. Despite the fact that hospital executives continue to earn significant raises on their million-dollar salaries – such as M Health Fairview CEO James Hereford, who took a 90 percent raise in 2019, bringing his salary to over $3.5 million – these same CEOs are offering nurses average annual increases of only around 4 percent, well below the current rate of inflation and climbing cost of living. Hospital CEOs with million-dollar salaries can afford to put Patients Before Profits in our hospital and to do right by Minnesota nurses.