MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Nurses represented by the Minnesota Nurses Associaton voted Thursday night to authorize the negotiating team to call a strike, rejecting the latest offer from Children's hospitals.
Nurses have been negotiating with Children's since March. Elected nurse members of the negotiating committee will decide when a strike would begin and how long it would last. A supermajority of the Minnesota Nurses Association membership must authorize the strike.
Nurses at Children's asked the hospital for two main things: Tighter language around workplace safety, which they got, and more affordable health insurance, which they did not get.
A strike at Children's hospitals could begin any time after 10 days have passed once the MNA issues a strike notice to the hospital.
The Minnesota Nurses Association says "despite some victories on local issues," the employer refuses to acknowledge MNA's insurance proposal.
"Even though Children's Hospitals' premium decreased last year for the 'Care' plan, the employer charged nurses and other employees more," MNA said in a statement.
According to Children's nurse, Eliana Hane, it comes down to numbers. Over the past 10 years, Hane says nurses' premium costs have gone up 10-25%. Meanwhile, their biggest raise has been 2%.
"I think there's some people in the public who think that because we're in healthcare that we get some sort of deal in health care, and we don't at all," Hane said.
A spokesperson for Children's Minnesota released the following statement regarding the contract rejection.
"It is disappointing that the MNA nurses at Children's have voted to authorize a strike. When you consider the progress we've made over several bargaining sessions, and the fact that the union has declined our requests to use a mediator, it doesn't make sense and it's unnecessary. Not only have we agreed to support various union priorities, including workplace safety, we have offered to go higher on wages because we value the important work that nurses do. Nonetheless, the union has chosen to focus on insurance -- and have singled out one plan with the smallest number of Children's nurses enrolled. Given the rising costs of health care, it shouldn't be surprising that costs for our most comprehensive plan have risen. Nevertheless, Children's continues to pay the bulk of the costs for this plan, as well as the other two plans available. A vote for a strike doesn't mean one will actually occur, and we are hopeful that we can make progress Friday at the negotiating table and work toward a resolution. Our goal is to come to an agreement that works for everyone, while also ensuring that care for our patients and families remains best-in-class."
Thousands of Minnesota nurses are currently working under an expired contract.
Negotiations continue between the Minnesota Nurses Association and 14 Twin Cities hospitals, including hospitals with Fairview Health Services, Children's, Allina Health, Health East, as well as Methodist Hospital and North Memorial.
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