MNA files intent to strike; 15,000 nurses could walk off job

Leaders of the Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) say they are now filing their intent to strike. In a press conference, MNA leaders announced their intent to strike on Thursday, September 1, this gives hospitals a 10-day strike notice before nurses could walk off the job.

The filing follows a strike authorization vote held last month, which union leaders say passed overwhelmingly.

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According to the MNA, nurses at 16 hospitals in the Twin Ports, Moose Lake, and the Twin Cities could strike for three days beginning on September 12.

If the strike does happen, union leaders say it would be the largest private sector strike of nurses in the nation’s history.

The strike authorization came after months of failed negotiations, a picket in June and a recent vote of “no confidence” in hospital leadership. Nurses are asking for changes like added safety measures, more protective equipment, better benefits and higher pay.

“The difference is our healthcare and profession are in crisis, and we must stand together for each other, our co-workers, and our patients and take this immediate action,” said Minnesota Nursing Association President Mary Turner.

The MNA represents 15,000 nurses across several hospitals in the state, including the Twin Cities and the Duluth, Minn. and Superior, Wisc. areas.

MNA President Turner mentioned in her speech early Thursday morning that,” 12 years ago, 12,000 nurses went on strike in the metro area seeking the same changes and demands that nurses are going to strike for.”

Thursday afternoon, Essentia Health said in a statement they are disappointed, but respect MNA’s right to a legal strike.

Along with several other health systems across the state, Essentia Health on Thursday received a 10-day strike notice from the Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA). This impacts hospitals in Duluth, Superior and Moose Lake. 

Progress has been made in talks, but significant gaps remain. 

The MNA is seeking a 32.5% wage increase over three years. Essentia offers competitive wages, sign-on and shift bonuses, tuition reimbursement/assistance and numerous other benefits. A 32.5% wage increase on top of that package is not sustainable. We are currently offering a 10% wage increase over three years. 

Because of these gaps, we have repeatedly requested mediation, which the union has consistently declined. 

Please note that today’s notice does not guarantee a strike will occur. Essentia will continue to negotiate in good faith in pursuit of a mutually beneficial agreement that supports quality patient care and good local jobs. Additional bargaining sessions are scheduled for next week. 

Essentia’s hospitals will remain open and accessible throughout this process. Should a strike occur, we have contingency staffing plans in place to preserve our ability to deliver the highest standards of patient care. 

In response to today’s announcement, Essentia joined other Minnesota health systems in filing an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The MNA failed to give the Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services a required notice. It is our hope that by filing this charge we can return our focus to the bargaining table; we must exhaust every option to avoid a work stoppage. That is why we took this step.  We respect the MNA’s right to call a legal strike. But they have not done so in this case, and we have a responsibility to provide patient care without disruption. The MNA would challenge any perceived failure to follow regulatory process on our part. We are holding them to the same level of accountability and urging them to continue bargaining with us.

St. Luke’s provided a statement on Thursday afternoon, saying they will continue to call for the MNA to allow the assistance of a federal mediator.

We have received MNA’s notification that St. Luke’s Hospital’s MNA-represented nurses will be on strike from 7 am on Monday, September 12 through 6:59 am on Thursday, September 15.

St. Luke’s is fully prepared to serve our patients for the duration of any MNA work stoppage and will continue to provide expert, quality care. Patient services will continue as usual.

However, MNA has not given proper notice of their intent to strike to appropriate government entities as required by federal law. Consequently, this strike is illegal. St. Luke’s, along with several other Minnesota health systems, has filed an unfair labor practice charge.

The MNA has been put on notice that engaging in a strike on September 12 would be an unlawful act, and we expect that MNA will withdraw its strike notice. 

We have negotiated in good faith for several months to reach a fair and equitable contract with our nurses. We have approached each negotiating session with the intent to come to an agreement and will continue to do so at our next session on September 8. We believe both parties should be doing everything they can to avoid a strike, and we continue to call for the MNA to allow the assistance of a federal mediator.