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A Minnesota Nurse Speaks Out About Exploitative Working Conditions

Above Photo: MediaNews Group / St. Paul Pioneer Press/Getty Images.

Below we share the text from a speech a striking nurse gave to others on strike in Minnesota.

Those striking are fighting against hospitals and a healthcare system that continues to put profit over people’s lives.

Hello, my name is Danielle and I’m a nurse at Methodist Hospital. I want to speak a little about the situation we are seeing currently which has led to this strike.

HealthPartners permanently closed seven clinics putting 200 people jobless during the pandemic as the company seeks to put profit first—and accessibility for healthcare last. HealthPartners closed thirty pharmacies and left 300 people jobless while also selling their patients to Walgreens pharmacies before the pandemic. HealthPartners bought Park Nicollet Hospital in order to consolidate and control the market. They created an insurance company that double dips into our communities’ wallets. This has resulted in higher prices for medical services and greater leverage to negotiate higher prices from health insurance providers, leading to ever-increasing health care costs for individuals and families.

Now their next victims are the union nurses. Since labor remains the biggest cost to any hospital, reducing full-time staff has become a key feature of “successful” hospital administration. The pandemic has only increased hospitals’ appetite for cheap and flexible labor. HealthPartners’ profit in 2019 was $468 million dollars, while they furloughed and forced nurses to use all of their sick and vacation time for covid exposures and symptoms.

Our hospital did not protect us, nor did they consider our input when implementing pandemic policies. They turned floors into Covid units overnight without warning and left the unfinished puzzle for the nurses to deal with. We were supplied with skeleton crews and PPE we were forced to reuse.

Now we are negotiating with our hospital in hopes to reclaim our profession. We want our profession to dictate what safe staffing is and what ratios should be in place to provide the best care while making our career sustainable. Currently, our nurse to patient ratios are decided and implemented by hospital administrative staff and these decisions are having irreparable damage to our profession.

We are asking the hospital to keep six months of PPE on hand at all times, but they said it is not cost effective for them. We want the hospital to acknowledge our sacrifices with hazard pay, instead they would rather increase our workload so they can reap the benefit. We believe all of our nurses deserve a guaranteed two week vacation every year and a transparent vacation granting process created by nurses. The hospital does not want transparency or any decision making power given to nurses. We want to be paid our worth and compensated for our sacrifices we made as healthcare heroes. Why do the elites at Methodist Hospital deserve the largest raises while the front line workers work next to travelers receiving three to four times as much per hour as the highest paid union nurse?

We are now feeling undervalued, underappreciated, and unheard. Our union is now being purposefully dismantled with travelers. Travel nurses cannot hold a hospital accountable for system errors and their goals are short term and focused on financial freedom. These contracted nurses are less likely to report issues to improve a hospital setting in fear of being canceled and placed on a “blacklist” alerting all hospitals not to hire them. Even if a traveler complained, the hospital does not have any obligation to fix the concern. It is much easier to be dismissive when there are no unions and the workers fluctuate in and out at the employer’s discretion. This in turn creates a fractured workplace when voicing institutional failures is discouraged.

We are now a corporate assembly line that is hurting our profession and our community. People can’t be healed by an assembly line and sick patients should not be used to enrich the elites. We are exploited and then replaced. The constant purging of nurses will eventually come to a head, and our community will suffer the consequences.

HealthPartners’ only way to negotiate with nurses is by hiding behind an overpaid, union busting, corporate lawyer. They continue to gaslight, demonize, shame, and guilt us during negotiations while investing large sums of money into advertising, bloated administrative salaries, union busting, and travel nurses. Their unregulated capital and abused nonprofit status is immoral and we need to fight corruption together. We are asking the public to hold our hospitals accountable and force them to give up the power they are intoxicated on.

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