Nurses at 12 hospitals in the Twin Cities and three in the Twin Ports of Lake Superior voted Monday to authorize what union leaders say could be one of the largest nurses strikes in U.S. history.
The 15,000 nurses voted overwhelmingly to authorize the strike that would commence after a 10-day notice to hospital operators. Union leaders have been negotiating since March and are asking hospital owners to address issues with staffing shortages, retention, pay and patient care.
“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,” Mary C. Turner, a registered nurse at North Memorial Medical Center and the Minnesota Nurses Association president, said late Monday night in announcing the vote outcome.
In all, 15 hospitals from seven systems are impacted by the vote.
In the metro area, hospitals affected are: Abbott Northwestern, Mercy, United, Unity, Children’s Minneapolis, Children’s St. Paul, Methodist, Riverside, Southdale, St. Joseph’s, St. John’s and North Memorial. Those hospitals are part of the Allina, Children’s Minnesota, HealthPartners, M Health Fairview and North Memorial systems.
This is the first time nurses in the Twin Cities and the Twin Ports of Duluth, Minn., and Superior, Wis., have taken this type of action in contract negotiations, union officials said. A two-thirds supermajority was required for the strike authorization to pass.
Nurses union leaders plan a news conference at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday to discuss the vote.
A spokesman for Twin Cities Hospital Group, which represents Children’s Minnesota, North Memorial Health, Fairview Health and Park Nicollet Methodist Hospital, urged nurses to join hospital negotiators in mediation.
“We are disappointed that the nurses’ union rushed into a strike vote without exhausting all means of reaching an agreement at the table or agreeing to our request for mediation,” the statement said. “We believe mediation is a helpful tool for finding common ground and mediation was mutually beneficial in our talks three years ago.”
An Allina Health official also expressed hope the two sides could find common ground. In a statement, Allina noted that contract negotiators have met a dozen times with union representatives and previous contract offers have included an 11 percent wage increase over a three-year contract.
“We are disappointed the union chose to take a strike authorization vote instead of working towards a fair and sustainable contract. A strike does not benefit anyone and will only further delay reaching a settlement at the bargaining table,” Allina’s statement said.
The strike vote comes after more than two years of the coronavirus pandemic has stretched many hospitals to the breaking point. Roughly one in five health workers left the profession during the pandemic, citing burnout and safety concerns.