Twin Cities nurses vote to strike

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Amid chants of “Safe Patient Care,” members of the Minnesota Nurses Association announced they have authorized a strike of Twin Cities hospitals – the largest nursing walkout in U.S. history. More than 12,000 registered nurses are ready to walk off the job in a one-day strike if a new agreement with six Twin Cities hospital systems can’t be reached before June 1, when the current contract expires, the union said. The walkout would affect 14 hospitals in the North Memorial, HealthEast, Allina, Methodist, Children’s and Fairview systems. 


Of the 9,000-plus Twin Cities RNs who voted Wednesday, more than 90 percent voted to reject the labor contracts and pension proposals from the hospitals, the union said.


“Nine thousand have spoken very loudly,” MNA President Linda Hamilton said. “It’s our job to negotiate a contract that makes sense for our patients. We will keep them safe.”







MNA vote
Nurses cheered as results of the contract vote were announced at the St. Paul Rivercentre.


Nurses may have voted no to the contract proposal, but “we said ‘yes’ to the future of our profession and the safety of our patients,” said Nellie Munn, an RN at Children’s Hospital.


In the next few days, the Minnesota Nurses Association will formally submit a 10-day strike notice to the Twin Cities hospitals, as required by federal labor law, Hamilton said. Twin Cities nurses plan to stage a one-day strike with a formal request to return to work the following day, she said.


“We want to have the maximum impact on our employers in terms of letting them know Twin Cities nurses are serious about standing up for patient safety,” Hamilton said. “At the same time, a one-day strike has the minimum impact on our patients and the communities served by these hospitals. Our nurses did not want to cast a strike vote, but the hospitals forced our hand. They left us no choice.”


 







Tabitha Newman
Tabitha Newman, an RN at Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids, casts her ballot.

The nurses will draw on the support of other Minnesota unions and their national organization, National Nurses United. NNU Co-Presidents Deborah Burger of California, Karen Higgins of Massachusetts and Jean Ross of United American Nurses addressed MNA members gathered at the St. Paul Rivercentre before the vote results were announced.


“We’re proud of you,” said Ross, who hails from Minnesota. Workers across the country are “looking at us . . . to stand up for the rights we have.”


A walkout would be the largest in U.S. history. The largest previous nursing strike in U.S. history also occurred in Minnesota, when more than 6,000 Twin Cities RNs walked off the job for 38 days during the summer of 1984.