Nurses 'overwhelmingly' authorize strike amidst negotiations with Children's Hospital

June 19, 2019 06:24 AM

After months of negotiations have failed to lead to a new contract between Children's Minnesota and its nurses, a strike may be on the horizon. On Thursday evening, the nurses voted down the latest offer from Children's.

About 1,500 nurses were expected to vote on the contract, following months of negotiations. A strike vote was “overwhelmingly authorized,” according to a Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) spokesperson.

“The nurses feel very disrespected,” said Elaina Hane, a registered nurse at Children’s Hospital in St. Paul.

She’s also part of the negotiation team, which the nurses' vote allows to call for the strike vote. MNA asked members to vote “no” on the three-year contract proposed by the hospital. That would also authorize a strike.

“Nurses don’t want to go on strike, so it’s very difficult for nurses to choose that way to vote,” said Hane.

But, she said they were left no other option.

“[Children’s Hospital] is refusing to talk about insurance, they say they're not interested in doing anything about insurance,” Hane said.

RELATED: Nurse contract negotiations ongoing, strike possible

According to Hane, premiums have skyrocketed since they were last negotiated in 2010.

“I actually had a nurse that came up to vote today, she was crying, she had tears in her eyes,” said Hane. “Her daughter is a diabetic and it costs so much money.”

MNA said it’s prepared to bargain every day until they reach an agreement.

If the nurses do strike, they would have to give the hospital 10 days notice. Negotiations could continue up to and during a strike.

Children’s Hospital said it has been bargaining in good faith.

“We are disappointed they are holding a strike vote,” said Katie Penson, Senior Director of Clinical Services, on Thursday afternoon.

Penson also issued the following statement:

“Children’s appreciates that there is a cost to obtaining health insurance coverage, and that the cost for insurance has increased in recent years along with the rising costs of health care. It should come as no surprise that the cost for the most comprehensive plan with the most generous benefits has been increasing at a greater rate than other plans made available to employees, particularly given that the employee deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums for this plan have not increased in years. Children’s, which is self-insured and pays the costs of the actual claims, still pays the lion’s share of total costs for this plan and the other two available plans, and the nurses have the same plan options and pay the same for premiums as all of Children’s non-union employees.

"We are surprised that MNA is holding a strike vote at this juncture in the negotiations. We have reached agreements with MNA on a number of the union’s priority items, including workplace safety. During our last bargaining session, Children’s made a proposal to match the annual wage increases that the nurses received during the last contract, and we made it clear that we have room to move higher on wages as part of an overall agreement. Children’s is not seeking any takeaways or proposing any concessions. Strike votes normally do not occur until the parties have exhausted their efforts to reach a mutual agreement. We are not at that point, and it is disappointing that MNA is focusing its efforts on conducting a vote rather than negotiating a contract settlement.”

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