Minnesota nurses picket over pay, patient care

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Thousands of Minnesota nurses are holding informational pickets across 11 hospitals Wednesday.

The picket, which the Minnesota Nurses Association says is not a work stoppage and won’t affect hospital operations, is in response to what the MNA called a “crisis” in Minnesota hospitals.

MNA officials say picketing will happen at different times between 6:30 a.m. – 8 p.m. Wednesday.

Nurses are calling for changes like higher wages, increased diversity and inclusion initiatives, and more retention efforts, MNA said.

MNA said 15,000 Twin Cities and Twin Ports nurses are seeking new contracts that “put patients before profits.”

Contracts for Twin Cities nurses expire Wednesday, while contracts for nurses in Duluth and Superior expire June 30.

MNA officials have criticized hospital CEOs for cutting nurses and expenses and increasing costs for Minnesota patients, but say CEOs continue to make millions.

“It’s become an expectation that we put ourselves last and it’s not sustainable,” said Lisa Sanford, a pediatric intensive care nurse at Children’s Minnesota in St. Paul.

Sanford said the Children’s Minnesota system is currently understaffed by about 150 nurses, which impacts patient care.

She said hospital leaders need to address the staffing crisis by taking steps to recruit and retain nurses.

“When I’ve been in charge sometimes, there have been days where I’ve had to say, ‘We can’t admit that kid because we don’t have staff and it’s not going to be safe. I can’t take care of the kids I have now. You can’t give me another one.’ And that’s devastating to say,” Sanford said.

Allina Health told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS last week, “Allina Health values our employees and respects the Minnesota Nurses Association’s right to conduct informational picketing during contract negotiations.”

Similarly, the Twin Cities Hospital Group released a statement saying they’ve “engaged in good-faith negotiations to reach a fair and equitable agreement.”

They added, “We will continue to bring forth proposals that recognize the efforts of our nurses.”

Twin Cities Hospital Group’s full statement is below:

“While we respect and recognize the nurses’ union right to provide their message to the public, we are disappointed the nurses’ union chose to cancel some of this week’s bargaining sessions.

“The past two years of the pandemic have been extremely challenging. Our proposals reflect a good-faith approach to reach an equitable agreement that balances the need to be good stewards of our resources with the needs of all members of the health care team. The union’s current demand of a 39 percent increase for wages and other increases simply are not realistic nor in the best interest of our community. This is not financially viable for our community members and healthcare systems recovering from a pandemic – many of which are operating with negative margins through the first quarter of 2022. We’ve offered opening wage proposals that are what the nurses have overwhelmingly supported in past years.  

Let’s get back to work at the negotiating table to reach a fair and equitable agreement and ensure there are no disruptions to patient care. As partners in care, our commitment to the community will not waiver.”