With Minnesota nurses just coming off a three-day strike in September that saw little progress, union officials announced a vote to hold a second strike.
During a press conference, Minnesota Nurses Association President Mary Turner said, “Our hospital leadership has failed.” They have failed to address the crisis circumstances in our hospitals and negotiate a fair deal with us.
Eight months of negotiations between the nurses’ union and hospital administrators at seven of Minnesota’s top health systems have deadlocked over compensation and staffing levels. Turner said that nurses had met with hospital administration nine times since their walkout in September.
Nurses will vote on November 30, but Turner said the union has not determined when or for how long nurses would strike if their members approve a work stoppage. The nurses’ union is obligated to provide hospitals with a 10-day notice to allow for contingency planning.
Children’s Minnesota, HealthPartners, M Health Fairview, Allina Health, North Memorial, Essentia Health, and St. Luke’s Duluth are among the impacted health systems.
The nurses’ demands for 30% wage increases over three years and a voice in staffing levels have so far been rejected by hospital administrators. Over the last three years, hospitals have retaliated with around 12% price hikes.
Representatives at the hospital did not react quickly to calls for comment.
Hospitals have said that the nurses’ requests are unreasonable and unsustainable in light of the rising expense of health care. According to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, Minnesota nurses are among the highest-paid in the nation, with the typical registered nurse earning $39.40 per hour or nearly $82,000 annually.
The Minnesota Nurses Association has made patient safety a primary topic of their campaign and has criticized hospital administrators for chronic understaffing, which, according to them, has led to an increase in patient injuries and nurse burnout.
Will Minnesota Nurses Strike Again?
A recent report from the Minnesota Department of Health indicates adverse health events increased by 33% in 2021 compared to 2020, while a recent survey from the Illinois Economic Policy Institute reveals that slightly more than half of the nurses are considering leaving the profession within the next year, primarily due to what they perceive to be unsafe staffing levels.
“Our emergency department has a 15-hour waiting period. During Thursday’s press conference, Shiori Konda-Muhammad, a nurse at North Memorial Health, said, “Workplace violence is on the rise, and every week we hear about someone being assaulted.”
With “The Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act” introduced in the state legislature earlier this year, the nurses sought a larger influence in staffing numbers. This measure, which died in a Republican-controlled Senate committee, would have compelled hospitals to execute a staffing plan authorized by a committee of nurses and management.
With Democrats in complete control of the legislature and governorship in the next legislative session, the nurses may be able to pass the law. Despite politicians’ promises that the staffing measure would pass, according to Turner, nurses are unwilling to compromise their expectations about staffing during union discussions.
“No. Currently, it is not an option to hope for such a thing,” Turner said.