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Minneapolis Nurses Fight Shows Strike Threat Can Bring Gains for Workers

Editor’s Note: We saved this article to open 2023 with an article that shows how militant laboe organizing can bring gains for workers. Feature image are images taken by LUEL Heartland Chapter members from the Minneapolis Nurses Strike earlier in the year.

On December 6th, the nurses of the Minnesota Nurse’s Association (MNA) ratified a new tentative agreement after an arduous nine month long negotiation process, a process that included a three day strike last September. A second, longer strike had been planned for December 11th, but the acceptance of the tentative agreement has rendered the strike unnecessary. “This tentative agreement is a historic win for nurses and patients at the bedside,” said Mary C. Turner, RN at North Memorial Hospital and President of the Minnesota Nurses Association.

Nurses at Twin Cities hospitals had been working without a contract since June of this year, and  nurses of the Twin Ports region have had no contract since July. This new agreement grants them many concessions that they have fought hard for: a “historic” pay raise of 18% over three years (the largest such increase in over 20 years) and additional workplace safety provisions meant to help curb violence in the workplace. Additional language in the contract protects nurses from unfair disciplinary actions from hospital management and codifies safe staffing requirements to counteract the problem of chronic understaffing due to poor conditions and management.

This change in attitude on the part of management from intransigent and obstinate to accommodating came rather suddenly, a source in the MNA told Labor Today. Before, hospital management would “trap” nurses in unfair situations and then discipline them for it, alter their work schedules with little to no prior warning, deny them time for their own medical needs and family time, and callously ignore the nurses protestations at this poor treatment. Management had a rapid “change of tone” when the union brought in a mediator to argue on their behalf.

The bosses’ attitude further changed when it became apparent that they could not replace striking nurses with scab labor. The hospitals will not pay the scabs well, or pay for their transport and lodging. Furthermore, the Twin Cities acquired a reputation as an unfriendly place for strikebreakers among the scabs themselves. The recent widespread show of public support for the nurses during the last three day strike showed that strikebreakers would not be greeted warmly. As our MNA source put it, “Minneapolis is a union town.”

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