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Minnesota nurses

Members of Minnesota Nurses Association and supporters demonstrate outside St. Luke's Hospital in Duluth on August 19, 2022. (Photo: Minnesota Nurses Association/Twitter)

'Largest Private Sector Nurses Strike in US History' Coming to Minnesota

"Hospital CEOs with million-dollar salaries can afford to put patients before profits in our hospital and to do right by Minnesota nurses," said Minnesota Nurses Association, which is organizing the strike.

Brett Wilkins

After months of fruitless negotiations with their multimillionaire employers over fair contracts, safe staffing, and other issues during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, 15,000 nurses at more than a dozen Minnesota hospitals are set to walk off the job later this month in what their union is calling the "largest private sector nurses strike in U.S. history."

"Our healthcare and our profession are in crisis."

"Today is a somber day," Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) president Mary Turner said during a Thursday news conference announcing the three-day strike, which is set to start September 12. "Our healthcare and our profession are in crisis."

"Everywhere in Minnesota nurses have watched CEOs with million-dollar salaries understaff our units, pushing us to do more with less, even before the pandemic hit," she continued. "Nurses do not take this decision lightly, but we are determined to take a stand at the bargaining table—and on the sidewalk if necessary—to put patients before profits in our hospitals."

Last month, MNA's 15,000 members voted overwhelmingly in favor of a strike after nurses say efforts to negotiate solutions to short-staffing, retention, and better patient care failed.

Minnesota Reformer reports:

The strike will begin on September 12, after the required 10-day notice period, and affect 15 hospitals run by many of the state's largest health systems including Allina, HealthPartners, Children's Minnesota, Fairview Health Services, North Memorial, Essentia, and St. Luke's Duluth.

The nurses are seeking 30% increases to pay and benefits over the next three years, a proposal that hospital leaders say is financially impossible after more than two years of financial strain during the pandemic. Hospital leaders have countered with raises of about 10% over three years, which they say would be the largest raises for nurses in 15 years...

Nurses say hospitals are dangerously understaffed, leading to more patient injuries like bedsores and falls. A recent report from the Minnesota Department of Health shows adverse health events were up 33% in 2021 from 2020 and last year, nurses filed nearly 8,000 reports of unsafe staffing levels, an increase of 300% from 2014.

"Corporate healthcare policies in our hospitals have left nurses understaffed and overworked, while patients are overcharged, local hospitals and services are closed, and executives take home million-dollar paychecks," said MNA first vice president Chris Rubesch, a registered nurse at Essentia Health in Duluth, in a statement.

"Nurses have one priority in our hospitals, to take care of our patients," he added, "and we are determined to fight for fair contracts so nurses can stay at the bedside to provide the quality care our patients deserve."

MNA members also highlighted the pay gap between healthcare executives and nurses. For example, M Health Fairview CEO James Hereford's $3.5 million compensation is 40 times that of the average registered nurse at the company's hospitals, while Essentia Health CEO David Herman, at nearly $2.7 million, makes 38 times more than the average RN salary at his firm's facilities.

"Despite the fact that hospital executives continue to earn significant raises on their million-dollar salaries, such as... Hereford, who took a 90% raise in 2019," MNA said, "these same CEOs are offering nurses average annual increases of only around 4%, well below the current rate of inflation and climbing cost of living."

"Hospital CEOs with million-dollar salaries can afford to put patients before profits in our hospital and to do right by Minnesota nurses," the union added.

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