Waiting for Joe Mauer's new Twins deal turned into a mini-drama the past few weeks. But there's another contract deadline looming that will really hit the Twin Cities hard if a deal doesn't get done.
Formal negotiations began last week between 12,000 area nurses and six hospital systems.
The current contract is set to expire at the end of May for nurses working at North Memorial, HealthEast, Allina, Methodist, Children's and Fairview. The union says it will vote May 19 to either ratify the new contract or authorize a strike.
Given the recession, the hobbled economy and the problems in health care funding generally, it's hard to imagine the nurses and hospitals not finding common ground.
We followed talks between Honeywell workers in the Twin Cities a few months ago where there was concern about a strike but workers ended up voting more than two to one for a new contract.
A nurses strike would be an earthquake in the Twin Cities. Staffing levels and pension fund contributions are likely to be the biggest issues, according to the nurses association.
So we're going to be following this issue pretty closely.
We got a heads-up on it from a nurse in MPR's Public Insight Network recently when we asked about her economic forecast for spring and she told us, "I am concerned I may have to go on strike in June."
If you're connected to nursing or hospitals -- nurse, doctor, administrator, patient -- tell us how you view the nursing contract talks and how a strike would affect you and the region. Post below or contact me directly.
This is the contract we all need to watch.
As an RN at one of the aforementioned hospital systems, I am very concerned about the proposals made by management in regards to our contract. We (nurses) are not asking for "more" of anything or making unreasonable demands like outrageous pay increases or an increase in benefits. The only thing we "want" is to define safe staffing with set patient-to-nurse ratios, time set aside to complete our quarterly mandatory education apart from using "downtime" when we have patient care responsibilities, and to keep the benefits and pension we already have fought so hard for.
What management wants to do:
- eliminate seniority benefits like every third weekend rotations
- reduce the pension to the levels they were at in 1968
- change our insurance to non-contract, which increases premiums, co-pays, and decreases coverage (what happened to caring for those who give care to others?)
- increase the cap of the mandatory low-need days to 15 (currently 3) - which for many people, like myself, would require us to use ALL earned vacation time, plus some unpaid since I do not receive 15 vacation days per year, should all mandatory low need days be utilized, essentially denying me my own scheduled vacation time if I want to get paid on these low need days
- create low need language which states "a nurse is a nurse is a nurse" and could float us not only between clinical units which are not our chosen specialty area where we have expertise, but also between different hospitals within our system entirely
- eliminate the ability of the nurse to decrease FTE unilaterally, but mgmt retains the right to cut our FTE at will with only 60 day notice (what's the point of a contract if your job is not secure, why is this not considered a layoff?)
The point I want to stress for those non-RNs reading this is the point about floating to different hospitals. Would you want a nurse caring for you who, not only doesn't work at your hospital on a regular basis and is unfamiliar with the unit and physicians and policies, but also is unfamiliar to your clinical condition? Would you want a labor & delivery RN caring for you as you receive cancer treatment? This is what the hospitals are proposing. Do you want a nurse who is assigned too many patients and cannot meet everyone's needs safely and in a timely fashion? This is what the hospitals are proposing.
In these tough economic times, the hospitals are counting on the fact that we nurses should "just be happy to have a job". And we are. But when a hospital system like Allina, a NON-PROFIT system, mind you, can make profits in the hundreds of millions of dollars even during one of the worst economic crisis in recent history, AND can give their CEO boosts to their already six-figure salary, there is something wrong with this picture, and the public should be outraged.
I don't want to strike, but I know how important patient safety is. And yes, my pension and insurance benefits and seniority issues are important too. So I will vote to strike if these proposals are not removed or significantly modified, and all the nurses in the metro ARE unified and standing together on this. There will be a strike, the largest in US history if the hospitals do not reexamine their foolish proposals. Even if they flew in scabs from every corner of the US, they will not be able to replace 12,000 nurses. RNs have the power in this negotiation process, but not only do we have the power, we are on the right side of the fence when it comes to moral correctness. Money is NEVER more important than human beings, their health and safety, and their livelihood.
I commend JB's comments. It is a sad society when nurses have to stand united and flex their union muscle to be sure that every patient we care for gets what they need during thier stay with us. For too long, hospitals have been trying to turn hospital care into a "Walmart" type experience. Where retail type surveys are sent to patients, not to better our care and seek out new and better treatments, but to give hospitals a "better market share" to make money. The hospitals will try and tell the public that nurses are greedy and this is about money. But I ask you, with an already looming nursing shortage and expected to get worse, how do we retain and recruit the numbers of nurses we need to care for the people in this great state of ours without competative benefits and pay? How is it best for patient care when the hospitals want to get rid of the ability for a nurse to retire early if she can no longer physically or mentally care for her patients any longer. Make no mistake, nursing is becoming more mentally taxing and more physically demanding each year. And the Hospitals say "just work harder and longer if you want a decent pension" How is it good for patient care to decrease our own healthcare benefits so we cannot maintain our health or our families health putting us and our patients at jeopardy?
They want to call us an hour and half before the start of our shift and tell us not to bother coming to work for 15 days a year? Could you afford this? Niether can I.
For every potentially harmful situation I may find myself in with an aggresive patient or potentially infectious situation- there is a moment with a patient or family where my words or my touch can make a difference in not only healing the body but healing the spirit as well.
It is because of my love for my profession and the patients I serve that I am more than willing to pick up a picket sign and encourage all nurses to do so - so we once again will be the last line of defense for our patients and fight for the safety and care they deserve!
The previous comments are right and factual. This all can be checked on various web sites that both the MNA and the corporations have. I can't believe what these corporations are asking nurses to sign on to with their proposals. Do they really think they can get away with it or do they really think these nurses are that dumb? This is gonna be big...stay tuned.
I am a very hard-working, dedicated, and passionate critical care nurse. This is my first time participating the negotiation of a union contract, so I am learning the good-faith process. I am very proud of my peer nurses who are on our negotiating team. They work very hard, long hours. Mostly uncompensated, but extremely appreciated. I'm also very proud of all those who are involved and actively doing something about our professional future. Even wearing RED on negotiating Wednesdays is very noticable. Anyone who has unfortunately been hospitalized know that nurses are extremely important. Some would say the most important. I wish the hospital staff negotiating for the MHA could shadow a nurse for just one shift. They would see we no longer take orders and give pills. We work very hard, managing multiple patients. And their families. And their spouses. We are dealing with people's lives when they are their most fragile, most vulnerable. We are important. We deserve respect. I can't believe our employer is making us ask for respect. Talk about being taken for granted. Nurses are not greedy. We are not working 13 hour shifts with NO breaks for the money. We are nurses because we dedicate our lives to caring for our community. Our patients. We are not asking for anything more than what we've had in our contract the past three years. They want to take away every single benefit and incentive we have worked so hard for. We come to work everyday, 24 hours, no holidays off because of our patients. But we also deserve respect and proportionate compensation for our dedication. And we aren't even talking hourly wage increases. We are talking about COBRA coverage so we don't have to work until we are 65 and qualify for medicare. We are talking about decent medical insurance. What happened to taking care of those who take care of others? We are talking about specializing in different areas of medicine so that we can excel and be the best cancer nurse or the best OR nurse or mom and baby nurse. The hospitals want to dictate which shift we work, how many hours, on which unit. I am a certified critical care nurse. I am passionate about critical care medicine. That is where I have worked, studied, learned for the past 8 years. It would do my patients a disservice to put me in a mom and baby unit. I could be a good nurse anywhere with the right training. But I am a great ICU nurse. And I love it, I enjoy it.
We only have until May 19th to negotiate a contract. I know 12000 nurses will be heartbroken to strike and not care for our patients. Nurses have and will ALWAYS put patient care above budget. I can only hope that the MHA will do the same.
I am a RN with 30 years of nursing behind me and 10 years to go....if I am physically able (ANCC certified for almost half of those years) .
There is no way that I am able to state things any more detailed, articulate or passionately than that of the previous posts. I will just add a BIG DITTO.
These postings above say it all. How can hospitals claim to care about giving the best possible care to our patients and behave the way they are behaving behind the scenes?. I was foolish when I thought our administration valued our profession and our dedication. I am disheartened and will fight for safe staffing and a fair contract to those of us who have dedicated our lives to serving others.
I always had a belief that the current management at Allina respected us as nurses and really did want what was best for the patients and the staff, sadly, with the cuts they are asking for, I find it isn't so. I love my job and am very sad that they are treating us this way. But, if we have to, we will strike. It is important to keep current acuity language for the protection of those we are charged to care for, we can't do anything less.
It would be hard to not repeat what the others are saying here. But, some things bear repeating. I am a 32 year nurse. I have been at my hospital for 27 of those years. I have seen this institution grow voluminously. I have been honored to be a part of that growth. They strove real hard to attain Magnet status. I was proud when my hospital attained this. But let’s review “Magnet”: Magnet status is an award given by the American Nurses’ Credentialing Center (ANCC), an affiliate of the American Nurses Association, to hospitals that satisfy a set of criteria designed to measure the strength and quality of their nursing. A Magnet hospital is stated to be one where nursing delivers excellent patient outcomes, where nurses have a high level of job satisfaction, and where there is a low staff nurse turnover rate and appropriate grievance resolution. This was taken directly from the web page for Nursing Advocacy at http://www.nursingadvocacy.org/faq/magnet.html. Job satisfaction and low turnover rate? Well, let’s see how satisfied we will be when the hospital negotiators tell us we have to take 15 days of no pay at the whim of the hospital. What do they think will happen to our satisfaction when the nurse/patient ratio is governed by them? Where they dictate how many patients we can safely care for. I wonder how satisfied senior nurses who attained certain perks for their seniority find those perks ripped out from underneath them. I wonder what our patient outcomes will be when we are floated to a hospital were we have never worked at before.
I do not want to strike. That would be a foolhardy thing to do just for the fun of it. So please don’t think we just want a little vacation in June. The hospitals are going to force us to strike by their savage attempt at gutting our contract. We have language that allows us to limit the number of patients we can care for and who would know better than the individual doing the cares as to how many patients he/she can take? Patient care and patient safety is the cornerstone of a nurse’s daily job and the nurse’s job satisfaction. We have language in place that rewards nurses for staying at a facility for a long time; earned benefits that can make a nurse want to stay at the job for a while. We have a good retirement in place but they want to cut into that earned benefit as well. This will affect our junior nurses the most and these junior nurses are rightfully angry about the attempt at eliminating these benefits. Why stay anywhere if nothing can ever be attained? Retaining quality nurses is something any high standard hospital should strive for. Hospitals need to look elsewhere for money saving adventures. The nurses have done and will continue to do their share. They have saved the hospitals millions of dollars by voluntarily staying home and by being told to stay home. Did I say millions of dollars? And we didn’t expect the thank-you we didn’t get. We also didn’t expect them to sucker punch us with these ridiculous proposals.
Bottom line: I wonder why the Hospital Negotiators thought any of this would be OK. How little do they really think of us?
I too must support the postings of my peers,
as a Registered Nurse of 37 years here in the Twin Cities, I have always loved and enjoyed my job and my patients. I have pride and confidence in my specialty and I have studied and worked hard at getting certifications in my specialty . What the hospitals are asking us to accept is not only frightening but unsafe. Their comment "a nurse is a nurse is a nurse" and proposing that all nurses will be made to float not only between units but between hospitals. Do you or your loved ones want a labor and delivery or pediatric nurse specialist taking care of you after suffering from a Heart Attack or a Stroke, not me, I want the most experienced, knowledgeable and confident
caregiver there is, taking care of me and my loved ones.
I have read each of the above comments and must agree with them whole heartedly. I have worked 27 years at one of the TCs level-one trauma centers in various positions. I have watched our hospital grow exponentially across the northern regions, providing excellent, compassionate and unsurpassed care to the outlying regions as well as the Twin Cities area. These past years have been admittedly difficult, financially, for all of the hospital systems nationwide. Healthcare is a larger issue these days than just contract negotiations. We must all remember, however, that patient safety is at the basis of our care models. We strive daily to meet and excel beyond national patient safety goals. These goals are meant to keep our patients safe in a highly technology-based, increasingly complex environment. IT TAKES TIME to provide this level of safe, complex care. It takes dedication on the part of the nurses who deal daily with extremely ill patients while providing compassion and support to their families. It is physically taxing to the body to provide such care. The proposals the MHA has made regarding our pension could penalize the people who have given of their body, literally, and their souls to provide this phenominal care. Changing patient assignment ratios will certainly impact the safety of care delivery. Staying late, skipping well-needed breaks...these are the things we are willing to do to care for the sick. Having random changes made to our work agreements, giving up our future financial stability because of some blips in the financial market, these are things we can not abide. People at all levels of this society count on us to put them first. We are asking for little more than maintaining the contract agreement we are already working under. Let's hope that both sides can give a little so that a strike does not become reality. This is not the goal of EITHER side. We have to work together.
Very well, eloquently spoken my colleagues. We will do whatever we have to to negotiate a contract that:
1. Protects patient safety
2. Gives RNs safe nurse to patient ratios
3. Protect our work agreements
4. Protect our families and our insurance benefits
5. Protect our right to use our vacation time
6. Protect our seniority rights
and many more issues
We are protecting our right to safe, reasonable patient safety. We deserve to be treated with fair, honest respect from our employers, and if we are not, we will do WHATEVER IT TAKES!!!!
The hospitals don't appear to be interested in negotiating anything at this point. They have not answered our questions for clarity and have not responded to our proposals. It is as if they either want us to go on strike or don't think we will. They have failed to consider that we have had enough. The American people have been told to "Just be thankful you have a job" since this entire economic mess began. The heads of many companies know that and have exploited it for the last three years with abusive business practices and a "shut up and put up" attitude. The hospitals are no exception. Well, the nurses are done. Done allowing management to make hundreds of thousands of dollars on our backs. Done allowing management to profit from inadequate staffing and the patient injuries and in some cases deaths that are caused by it. Done saying that it is OK to risk quality patient outcomes to save the almighty dollar. It is time that management remembers that patients are why we are in business and they deserve nothing less than what management would want for their family members. I do not want to strike but I am ready to go if I have to.
Dearest Minnesota Nurses,
We in California are going through the same ordeal. It's really amazing how the Hospitals think they can take advantage of the economic down turn and make us nurses have to pay for their desire to improve their bottom line. How the Hospitals across the country seem to not want to negotiate, they just want to dictate, set ultimatums and virtually refuse to sit down at the table and come up with anything fair. They want to take away what we have earned and make us look like we are the greedy ones. They cannot see that the title "Magnet Hospital" is an honor that was achieved by the nurses and they bragged about how wonderful we were yet when it comes time to negotiate we hold little ground and get even less respect.
The PUBLIC just does not truly understand all that is demanded of the nurses working in hospitals. They see that we have jobs that make decent money and that is all they see. (Unless of course they have been a long term patient and those people probably do understand.)
The future of Nursing depends on us (Coast to Coast) to not allow our profession to be disrespected as it is being. If we do not stand up to the challenges we are faced with, the nursing shortage will only get worse, and in the long run both the hospitals and the patients will be the one that suffer. STAND STRONG, Stand True, stand together. Nurses deserve everything they can get. And do not deserve to have things taken away.
Best of luck to all of you,
A Stanford Nurse