At Fairview Southdale Hospital, nurses waited outside in the rain until last moment of 24-hour strike


At about 6:30 a.m. this morning, in the closing minutes of a 24-hour strike by Twin Cities nurses, a handful of pickets stood at their posts in the rain outside Fairview Southdale Hospital.

One small group of pickets, taking shelter from the rain, stood underneath a skyway bridge linking a parking ramp on the other side of France Ave. So. with the hospital.

“We picketed until 3:15 a.m., then we left for a while and now we’re back,” reported RN Bonnie Senescull, Bloomington, who has worked 23 years at the hospital.

The Minnesota Nurses Association, concerned about lightning, told them to go home, one of the group explained, and that was the only reason they left.

As for staying on the picket line until the wee hours of the morning, “it was the same thing as working the night shift,” said RN Marita Wermskirchen, Shakopee, who has worked 17 years at the hospital.

“Even at three o’clock in the morning, people were still honking,” said Senescull.

The picketers were not scheduled to work at 7:00 a.m., the planned end time for the nurses 24-hour strike. “We’re going to walk in the nurses who are working,” Senescull said.

Standing at the door from the parking ramp to the skyway, two nurses arriving for work weren’t sure if they should just cross the skyway to the hospital or meet other returning strikers first.

“I’ve seen a lot of people going in – I don’t know if they’re scabs or if they’re us,” said one of the two, who both were dressed in red, the color of the Minnesota Nurses Association.

The two walked across the skyway, a few minutes before 7:00 a.m.

Outside, a growing group of nurses gathered in the rain near a bus shelter, holding umbrellas. Nearing 7:00 a.m., the group had grown to about 100 people, waiting together to march back in to the hospital en masse to end the 24-hour strike.

“I’m glad we’re going to be going back so our patients can actually get good care. We’ve heard some horrendous horror stories,” said RN Mary Kohout, Hopkins, who has worked seven years at Fairview Southdale.

Then, just before 7:00 a.m., without any special fanfare, the group of nurses began walking in a long line of umbrellas towards the urgent care entrance to Fairview Southdale.

A hospital official stood waiting for them, along with two security officers.

As the group filed past into the building, the hospital official stopped one nurse, who was still wearing a strike button. “You have to take that off,” he told her.