It was dubbed one of the largest nursing strikes in the private sector in U.S. history, but the planned demonstration will not go forward as originally planned now that the Minnesota Nurses Association has achieved a tentative three-year deal with hospital management. The deal averted a possible strike of some 15,000 nurses across the state, including the Twin Cities.
The union called the agreement a “historic win” for both nurses and patients. It includes unprecedented language meant to reduce staffing shortages over the next several years. It also features an 18% pay increase over the next three years for Twin Cities nurses and a 17% increase for Duluth-area nurses over the next three years.
“For years, hospital executives have been pushing nurses out of the profession by under-staffing our units and under-valuing our nurses. This tentative agreement will help to keep nurses at the bedside, where we will keep fighting to oppose the corporate healthcare policies which threaten our hospital systems and the care our patients deserve,” MNA President Mary Turner said.
The negotiations lasted nine months and nearly all the hospitals involved have agreed to the deal except St. Luke’s Lake View Hospital in Two Harbors, but another bargaining session is scheduled for Friday.
“Lake View will continue our strong tradition of working collaboratively with the MNA to reach an agreement that is fair to all of our stakeholders, including our patients, community, and our entire Lake View team,” the hospital said in a statement.
If the new labor contract is approved by the MNA, representatives said they remain hopeful it will lead to better working conditions for nurses. Staffing changes vary by contract, but the deal is designed to “prevent reductions in staffing levels without consensus between nurses and management; help protect nurses from discipline when they raise concerns about unsafe assignments; and to trigger reviews of staffing levels by nurses and management in response to key measures of patient and nurse well-being and outcomes.”
The deal also includes pay raises for preceptors and charge nurses.
“MNA has withdrawn its strike notice and will bring the contract to nurses for ratification in the near future,” the union said in a statement. “We want to thank all who have worked so diligently at the table to reach a fair and equitable contract.”
“For nine long months in these negotiations, nurses have insisted that workers and patients deserve better in our hospitals,” said Chris Rubesch, a registered nurse at Essentia in Duluth and First Vice President of the Minnesota Nurses Association.
“This tentative agreement is a critical step to address the chronic short-staffing and other corporate healthcare policies hurting patients and nurses at the bedside. With new staffing language and fair wage increases, nurses are empowered to continue the fight to protect care in our communities,” he added.
Hospital administrators up and down the state are also breathing a sigh of relief now that they don’t have to worry about keeping the lights on during a possible strike.
“We are pleased to announce that Allina Health and Minnesota Nurses Association reached a tentative agreement,” Alina Health said in a statement. “The settlement, which the union is recommending, is now subject to ratification by union membership. MNA has rescinded all strike notices at Abbott Northwestern, United (St. Paul campus) and Mercy (both campuses) hospitals.”
The company also said it “is pleased with the settlement, which reflects the priorities of both parties and is fair and equitable to our employees, patients, and communities. We are thankful to be able to return our full attention to caring for the community at this time of increased illness and demand.”