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What’s Next as the Minnesota Nurses Strike Enters Its Final Day?

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The largest nursing strike in U.S. history is winding down today across the state of Minnesota. The three-day strike began Monday morning and is set to end tomorrow at 7 AM local time. Around 15,000 nurses are striking across dozens of hospitals in the Twin Cities and beyond. The Minnesota Nurses Union has been negotiating with hospital management to no avail. The nurses are asking for higher pay, better staff-patient ratios, and a seat at the table when it comes to staffing decisions.

Some striking nurses will go back to work today at 6:30 PM and the rest are set to return Thursday morning. But it’s not clear where the months-long negotiation process goes from here. Neither party has announced additional bargaining sessions, so the dispute may continue for some time.

On the ground, many nurses are feeling enthusiastic, but others aren’t sure how to proceed.

Nurse Kelley Anaas shouted to a crowd of nurses Wednesday morning, her voice hoarse from two days of marching.

“People are feeling energized. We’re ready to kind of close this out. We had three days to send a message to the hospitals on what it’s gonna be like to work without us and we’re really feeling confident that that message has been received by them,” Anaas said.

In a statement, St. Luke’s Hospital in Duluth said the facility sustained its operations throughout the strike and that it will welcome the nurses back to work on Thursday.

The strike doesn’t appear to have moved the negotiations forward. Both sides expressed their frustration over the ongoing negotiation process, and some sessions were even canceled during the demonstration. The hospital said many of the union’s proposed schedule changes would “negatively impact staffing.”

But the nurses remain united. They said they refuse to accept a contract that doesn’t address their staffing and retention concerns.

“It’s kind of in their court to tell us when they want to come back,” said Anthony Brown, who said he is a nurse and member of the Children’s Minnesota in Minneapolis negotiating team. “We’ve not heard much in the last three days.”

He said the hospital “shut down” talks on Saturday and canceled a scheduled negotiation with the union on Tuesday.

At least one nurse also expressed her doubts over whether the strike has had an impact.

“Did we shake them, being management? Because we feel shook,” said nurse Trisha Ochsner outside the hospital on Wednesday. “Did it make a difference? I don’t know, we’ll find out. We’ll see how they act tomorrow when we show up.”

Jordan Hoffmann, a nurse at Children’s Minnesota for 19 years, said he has been on the job “a long enough time to know that we’ve been sliding for a while — that the pandemic was the tipping point for accelerating what has been going on.”

The nurses agree that the pay is too low to hire and retain enough nurses, which puts patients at risk. Nurses have been quitting in large numbers due to burnout, unsafe working conditions, and poor pay.

“A lot of nurses are getting assaulted, sometimes by patients or family, and we just don’t have any protection [that] the hospital is providing us to be able to safely work here. That’s a big reason the people are leaving,” said Shiori Konda-Muhammad, a cardiac ICU nurse at North Memorial.

In response, the hospital said nurses in the state are fairly compensated for their time.

“Nurses in Minnesota rank among the most highly compensated in the nation, regularly in the top ten among all the states,” said a statement from several of the negotiating Twin Cities hospitals. “The average Minnesota nurse earns $80,960.”

The union was required to submit a 10-day notice to the hospital announcing its intention to strike. But the hospitals reported no problems during the demonstration.

Paul Omodt, a spokesperson for the Twin Cities Hospitals Group, said wait times have been normal at hospitals affected by the strike.

“Our replacement nurses have come in. They are trained, they are licensed, they’ve been working alongside our management nurses, who are qualified and trained nurses, and we are doing a good job of serving our patients,” Omodt said.

Steven Briggs
Steven Briggs is a healthcare writer for Scrubs Magazine, hailing from Brooklyn, NY. With both of his parents working in the healthcare industry, Steven writes about the various issues and concerns facing the industry today.

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