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Saturday, January 28, 2023

Twin Cities nurses vote to hold three-week strike

After 15,000 members voted overwhelmingly to strike for a second time this year, the Minnesota Nurses Association has threatened a three-week strike during the holidays if they are unable to reach an agreement with hospital executives on new contracts.

Union officials stated on Thursday morning that nurses at a dozen hospitals in the Twin Cities and two Essentia facilities in the Twin Ports would go on strike at 7 a.m. on December 11 and continue their strike until 12 p.m. on December 31.

Nurses at other Duluth and Two Harbors hospitals have declared a permanent strike, to begin after the statutory 10-day notice period.

We’d rather not be walking around on the sidewalk. Abbott Northwestern nurse Angela Becchetti claimed that the working conditions and staffing shortages at Twin Cities hospitals are untenable and that the nurses just want to be caring for their patients.

Patients are waiting long periods of time to get admitted to hospitals. There has been a dramatic exodus of nurses in recent years. Becchetti said, “This is the problem that we’ve been working so hard to solve.

In a statement, the Twin Cities Hospital Group, which represents four of the affected health systems, expressed “shock and great disappointment” at the nurses’ intention to strike again.

“While gaps exist, we are convinced that progress can continue to be achieved by being engaged at the table,” the organization said in a statement.

According to the report, various groups involved in the negotiations have just lately decided to call in mediators to assist forward the discussions.

Nursing union leaders “have decided to put the union’s agenda above the welfare of our patients,” the statement reads.

Allina, Children’s Minnesota, HealthPartners, M Health Fairview, and North Memorial are some of the metro’s largest employers of registered nurses. In the event of a strike, hospital administration would have to bring in replacement staff to continue providing care to patients.

With more people than ever before suffering from respiratory illnesses including influenza, COVID-19, and RSV, health professionals have warned that a strike would be very difficult to implement.

Allina Health stated in a statement that the state’s healthcare system was under “exceptional stress” due to the “essential treatment for our population amid this spike of seasonal sickness.”

Allina added, “To be clear, the union is opting to further withdraw essential healthcare resources at a time when the community’s healthcare needs are high and at the peril of individuals who are counting on us to care for them.”

Nurses refute this story, claiming they will strike because hospital administration mandates hazardous staffing levels. Nurses want more than just extra help; they want a greater say in how many patients they see at once.

Longtime nurse Trisha Ochsner of the Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis lamented that the facility was overcrowded and understaffed, causing families to wait hours to be seen.

We’re at our breaking point,” Ochsner said. “We will not give up the struggle for safe staffing until we win.”

The current outbreak of respiratory viruses is unprecedented, according to Dr. Marc Gorelick, president and CEO of Children’s Minnesota. This has put the hospital to its “breaking point.” Leaders at Children’s Hospital, including Gorelick, were shocked to hear that nurses had voted to strike at this “dire” moment.

Incredibly, “I’ve never seen anything like this,” Gorelick, who has worked in pediatric health since 1987, said.

Starting in the spring, nurses and hospital administration have started talking about a new contract. Disputes persist about compensation, security, and other aspects of the workplace in addition to personnel numbers.

North Memorial Hospital nurse Jennifer Martinson, who was pregnant during the outbreak’s early days, said she had to take time off without pay to care for herself and her baby. She said that some other moms of small children have questioned whether or not her career choice as a nurse is worthwhile.

Martinson said that the hospital industry desperately needs more nurses and that his organization was seeking reforms that would make those nurses feel appreciated and encourage them to remain in the field.

Nurses’ salary demands of up to 22% during a three-year contract are another contentious issue. Executives at local hospitals have rejected offers of up to 15 percent.

Twenty percent of health care jobs in Minnesota are open, which is on par with the national average. Nurses predict that more of their peers will quit the profession as a whole owing to stress, burnout, and security worries.

There was a three-day strike by nurses in September, which union organizers called the greatest private sector nurses strike in U.S. history. After that strike, there was some movement, but the discussions have been going slowly since March.

The following hospitals in the Twin Cities metro area may be impacted by a potential nurses’ strike: Abbott Northwestern, Mercy, United, Unity, Children’s Minneapolis, Children’s St. Paul, Methodist, Riverside, Southdale, St. Joe’s, St. John’s, and North Memorial. St. Luke’s Hospital in Duluth, Minnesota, and Essentia Health facilities in Duluth and Superior, Wisconsin, make up the Twin Ports healthcare network.

Cedric Blackwater
Cedric Blackwater
Cedric is a journalist with over a decade of experience reporting on local US news, and touching on many global topics. He is currently the lead writer for Bulletin News.

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