Duluth nurses reach tentative agreement, avert strike


After nearly 30 straight hours of bargaining, members of the Minnesota Nurses Association and SMDC Medical Center reached a tentative settlement Wednesday, likely averting a walkout scheduled for next week. A major breakthrough was agreement on contract language to address the level of nurse staffing, the negotiations committee said.

“As a committee we can strongly recommend this contract to you for ratification,” the committee said in a statement posted on the MNA blog. “Finally, we have been able to get the language Twin Cities nurses have had that allows us as RNs to advocate for our patients!”

“We were also able to get Kentucky River language, salary increases that are an improvement over the recent pattern of 0, 1 and 2 percent from other nursing contracts in the state, and enhancements to our education and life insurance.”

The committee’s reference to “Kentucky River language” means the union was able to achieve contract language preventing SMDC management from using the National Labor Relations Board’s decision in the Kentucky River case, which expanded the definition of supervisor, to remove charge nurses and other lead staff from bargaining units.

Duluth nurses will vote Friday whether to ratify the tentative agreement. Voting will take place at the United Methodist Church, 230 E. Skyline Parkway, from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m.

Nearly 1,000 nurses at SMDC have been without a contract since the previous pact expired July 1. Bargaining began May 6. On Sept. 3, union members notified SMDC of their intent to hold a one-day strike Sept. 14. If it were to occur, the walkout would be the first of its kind in Duluth’s nursing history.

While nurses at SMDC were announcing their tentative agreement, nurses at St. Luke’s Hospital in Duluth were voting on their contract. Results will be announced Wednesday evening, the union said.