Above Photo: Nurses picket outside Children’s Minnesota – St. Paul Hospital on Monday, Sept. 12, 2022, in St. Paul, Minn. Kerem Yücel / MPR News.
Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota – Nurses at 15 hospitals in the Twin Cities and northern Minnesota began a three-day walkout Monday morning.
The strike started at 7 a.m. and is scheduled to last until early Thursday morning. Union officials said no negotiations are currently planned during the strike period.
Union nurses have been in negotiations since March, and working without a contract since June. The main sticking points are wage increases, retention, staffing and safety concerns, as well as addressing ongoing burnout, heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The most important thing for us is safe staffing. And we have proposals on the table to have nurses have a say in how things go. We do the work … we’re the ones that take care of the patients. We need a say in how things go,” said Tricia Ryshkus, a nurse at Children’s Minnesota in Minneapolis and a member of the Minnesota Nurses Association negotiating team.
“We don’t want the pandemic, the short staffing and all the things, to be our new normal. We can’t do that anymore. It’s not fair to us. It’s not fair to our patients.”
Union leaders reiterated that point during a noon news conference Monday. Mary Turner, president of the Minnesota Nurses Association, told reporters that the union wants hospitals to have to get majority approval from nurses on a hospital floor before making any staffing changes.
Nurses want the “ability to have some say in the staffing on our floors. We’re being denied that,” she said.
Asked what happens Thursday if the three-day strike ends without a deal, Turner told reporters that nurses would return to work and continue the contract fight, adding the union hoped the three-day walkout would be enough to bring the hospitals back to the bargaining table.
Turner on Sunday told WCCO-TV that some bargaining teams met with hospital management through the weekend, lasting until early Sunday morning. Others held sessions last week.
She noted that at least one of the nurse negotiating teams offered to slightly reduce its demand for a 30 percent wage increase over three years. Hospitals are offering around 10 percent increases over the same time period.
In August, union members voted to authorize a strike. The union is required to provide hospital officials 10 days notice before walking off the job, which they did in a press conference on Sept. 1.
MNA leaders have said it’s likely the largest private-sector nurses strike in U.S. history. Earlier this month, the union said 16 hospitals were expected to be part of the strike. On Monday, though, staff at 15 hospitals struck while nurses at the Essentia hospital in Moose Lake, Minn., chose to conduct an informational picket.
Union leaders have described staffing levels at hospitals as being at crisis levels following two years of dealing with the pandemic.
Mary Forbes, a registered nurse at Abbott Northwestern, said many of her colleagues have chosen to become travel nurses and that hospital systems have not provided the needed incentives to keep people in place.
Forbes said staffing is the most important issue to her and addressing it would keep her at patients’ bedsides for years to come. “I’m 28 and my back hurts and patients yell at me and their family members yell at me and it’s just not sustainable.”
In a statement Friday, officials with Allina Health said their priority is to “provide safe, high-quality care” throughout the strike and is “committed to minimizing any disruptions in care.”
On its website, St. Luke’s in Duluth said, “We will continue to offer all services and will be fully open for all inpatient, emergency and clinic-based care, although we may reschedule some non-urgent surgeries and procedures. Patients should arrive as scheduled unless they hear differently from their provider.”
The union said these are the hospitals and systems impacted by the strike. Two large Twin Cities hospitals — Regions Hospital in St. Paul and Hennepin Healthcare in Minneapolis — are not part of the strike.
M Health Fairview system, Twin Cities area
- St. Joseph’s
- St. John’s
- St. Mary’s Duluth
- St. Mary’s Superior
- Essentia Moose Lake – Informational picket only
Allina Health, Twin Cities area
- Abbott Northwestern
- Children’s Minneapolis
- Children’s St. Paul
HealthPartners, Twin Cities area
- St. Luke’s, Duluth
- North Memorial Health