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Minnesota nurses to strike as they demand better work conditions

15,000 Minnesota nurses to strike for three days starting Sept. 12
15,000 Minnesota nurses to strike for three days starting Sept. 12 01:08

Thousands of nurses in Minnesota are planning to strike later this month because they say their employers have ignored demands for a new union contract.

The strike will begin at 7 a.m. September 12 and end at 7 a.m. September 15, Mary Turner, president of the Minnesota Nurses Association, said during a press conference Thursday. About 15,000 nurses plan to stop working in what is believed to be the largest private-sector nurses strike in U.S. history.

"This isn't something we do lightly, but we're not going to sit back and do nothing," she said. "We're serious about this and we have been all along."

The nurses work at 16 hospitals across the state, according to CBS Minnesota, including Allina Health of Minneapolis, Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park, St. John's Hospital in Maplewood and North Memorial Health in Robbinsdale.

The nurses said they've been trying to negotiate higher wages under a new contract since March, but hospital executives have called their demands too expensive. Nurses now say they're striking because hospitals refuse to hire more staff, a decision that means patients must endure long stints in the waiting room instead of receiving the care they need.

Nurses also said they're tired of seeing patients slapped with overpriced bills while hospital CEOs bring in multi-million salaries.

Hospital systems said Thursday they've been urging the nurses to settle on a new contract through a mediator, but the workers have disregarded that route. 

Allina Health said Thursday that it has offered the nurses an 11% wage increase over the next three years but the workers won't budge on their "unsustainable" ask of a 31% increase. Allina said it wants to return to the bargaining table with a mediator.

"We made progress this week at the negotiating table and a strike only serves to keep our valued nurses from working alongside our care team to deliver needed patient care," the healthcare system said in a statement. 

Twin Cities Hospitals Group, which represents North Memorial, also said that an over-30% wage increase over three years is "unreasonable, unrealistic and unaffordable."

"We are disappointed the nurses' union today has rushed into an intent to strike notification and refuses to exhaust all available means to avoid potential disruption to patient care including our repeated offers of an outside mediator," Twin Cities Hospitals said in a statement.

Minnesota nurses had been working under a previous two-year contract that was approved in 2021. That agreement expired months ago, the group said, adding that nurses in Minneapolis and St. Paul have been working without a deal since May 31 and nurses around Duluth have been working without a contract since June 30. 

Katie Donner, a nurse at St. John's, pushed back against the idea that nurses wanted unreasonable perks in their new contract. Some of the things included in the negotiation talks are more security officers, panic buttons in hospital rooms and mental health services for nurses post-COVID, she said Thursday during the press conference.

The strike comes when nurses nationwide already feel burned out, Donner said — a sentiment echoed by hundreds of other nurses. Hospital executives want the public to believe there's a nursing shortage, but in actuality, there's a shortage of nurses willing to work under grueling conditions, the nurses said. 

Turner noted that a survey published last month from the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses found that 67% of nurses plan to leave their job soon, in part because staffing at their hospital has been too low. 

Turner said hospital executives in Minnesota have misplaced their priorities and the upcoming strike is an objection to their putting patients before profit. 

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