Minnesota nurses are gearing up to hit the streets as contract negotiations continue to fall short of expectations. Nurses are asking hospital leadership to provide them relief from short staffing concerns, job retention, and improved patient care. It is not just the nurses calling for action to provide better care either, the Minneapolis City Council joined in support with a unanimously approved resolution encouraging hospital employers to reach a fair contract and to “prioritize patients and frontline healthcare workers, including nurses, over profits.”
The hospital executives clearly do not see the value of patients over profits and have continued to push for longer hours and dangerous situations that put more money in their pockets. These actions, and lack of actions, have increased the amount of burnout nurses experience while forcing them into situations that are downright unhealthy. We cannot expect our frontline workers to bear the brunt of a major pandemic while facing catastrophic staffing shortages and an increase in violence in their workplace. These conditions have become so detrimental that nurses at seven hospitals in the Twin Cities and Twin Ports announced on August 2nd that they held a vote of no confidence for the executives and CEO’s.
It would be understandable for the nurses to face contract struggles if they were asking for radical pay increases in a system where money was in short supply, but this is simply not the case in Minnesota. Data from the 2019 IRS 990 tax forms show that hospital executives received up to 3.5 million dollars in compensation. Minnesota’s nurses are not asking for anything near that extreme and have been denied even a meager 8% pay increase from their previous contract. This is an insult to the people who have had to work through short staffing and a pandemic where their very lives were on the line to protect the people of Minnesota. Longer hours, larger workloads, and more dangerous times demand not only a better system of hiring and retention but also compensation for those who must face these challenges.
More than 15,000 nurses will take to the streets on September 12th for a planned 3 day strike with their battle cry demanding hospital executives “put patients over profits.” Hospitals from the Twin Cities to Duluth plan to stand in solidarity as they have become tired of working without a contract. More than 5 months of negotiations stand behind them, and with the executives refusing to meet their demands they are taking decisive action and garnering community support across Minnesota and Wisconsin in their efforts. Signs of support can be seen on lawns across the region, and their union leadership is standing behind them as they cope with their frustrations. “Hospital executives with million-dollar salaries have created a crisis of retention and care in our healthcare system, as more nurses are leaving the bedside, putting quality patient care at risk,” said Mary C. Turner, RN at North Memorial Hospital and President of the Minnesota Nurses Association. “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.”
With the time for action looming, hospital executives have not paid heed to their nurses or the community but have instead attempted to fight back in foolish attempts to threaten or demean the Minnesota Nurse’s Association. Rather than meeting the nurse’s at the bargaining table, hospital executives attempted to demand that the nurses file a 30-day notice with the state Bureau of Mediation Services (BMS). This is a ridiculous action to try to force as the BMS does not have jurisdiction over private sector employees. Other nurses have even received threats from hospital executives stating they would be locked out after the strike, while some groups received messages trying to encourage them to abolish their union entirely.
The Minnesota Nurse’s Association deserves the support of the public and are fighting not for fairness in the workplace, but for the ability to provide the care that they desperately want to bring to their communities. Our doctor’s and our hospitals would never be able to function without the tireless work of the nurses, and if we neglect these workers we are taking a cornerstone out of our community healthcare.