The Minnesota nurses Strike has the potential to be the largest nursing strike in our Nation’s history, with 15,000 nurses voting to authorize a strike with one demand, “put patients before profits.” With contract negotiations stalled, nurses have sent an ultimatum to seven healthcare systems that employ them.
“For the longest time, hospital administrators have been crying false tears over the supposed nursing shortage that they themselves created,” said Jeremy Olson-Ehlert, RN, an MNA Chair at Hennepin Healthcare. “Our Hennepin County Medical Center nurses are some of the most wonderful nurses I have ever worked with. But we are tired. We need help from executive management, and the call is not being answered. There is no nursing shortage, but a shortage of nurses willing to put up with the conditions and consequences of poor staffing and violence against healthcare staff.”
Nurses within the healthcare system face grueling working conditions that are compounded by violence within their workplace. Annual rates of physical and non-physical assault, per 100 nurses, were 13.2, and 38.8 respectively. Our society and our healthcare system cannot function without the dedicated work put forward by the nurses of the MNA (Minnesota Nurse’s Association) who put their health and lives on the line for this job. Despite their difficult work conditions and the lack of support they receive from hospital executives, the demand from the MNA is clear that they are still more concerned with their safety and the health of their patients over their own profits.
MNA nurses have tried several times through contract negotiations to increase their salary to a livable wage. Their requests were frequently turned down by hospital executives as being “unreasonable.” “The [counter]offer was for an 8% pay increase spread out over the next three years.” Said Angela Becchetti, a nurse at Allina’s Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis and a member of the union’s bargaining committee. She said, “while it may be the best offer in 15 years, it doesn’t account for inflation outpacing their wage increases over that time,”
Hospital executives, on the other hand, are receiving exorbitant amounts of money while stating that there is no financial way to support the nurses who provide for our community. They have released statements that claim the strike is a situation with no winners and have threatened to follow through with “contingency plans” if the nurses stand up for their labor rights.
Their claim about not being able to raise wages does not match the massive pay gap between the workers and the hospital executives with Essentia Health, CEO David Herman receiving $2.7 million in total compensation in 2020, a 61% increase from 2019. One other executive received more than $1 million in compensation. This pay gap only exacerbates the exploitation of the nurses to increase the bonuses of the bosses within the healthcare system.
We at LUEL stand in solidarity with the MNA and their fight for a safer workplace. We believe that they truly are making a stand to put patients before profits and support their efforts to create a better healthcare system for Minnesota.