Nurses to vote on another, open-ended strikeby Lorna Benson, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Twin Cities nurses will vote next Monday, June 21, on whether to authorize an open-ended strike against 14 Twin Cities Hospitals.
The decision comes just days after the nurses union held the largest nursing strike in U.S. history when 12,000 of their members joined the picket lines last Thursday.
But the one-day job action didn't persuade hospitals to revise their contract offer. So nurses say they are upping the stakes.
The Minnesota Nurses Association believes its one-day strike caused substantial disruption and financial hardship for Twin Cities Hospitals, but nurses union spokesman John Nemo said the tactic obviously wasn't painful enough to get hospitals to alter their contract proposals.
Nemo said nurses definitely don't want another strike, but they have no other good options.
"Unfortunately our nurses really feel forced to take this open-ended strike," he said. "Hopefully that's a way that's going to jolt the hospitals up and out of their chair and back to the table to get something done."
The union needs authorization from at least 66 percent of its members to set a new strike date.
Nemo said the stakes are obviously high for nurses who could be facing significant financial hardship if they're out of work for several weeks or more, but he says if nurses back down to hospitals now, they will be in much worse shape long-term.
"They just want to bust the union. They want to bust their nurses. They want to divide them and conquer them and from the hospital's point of view, put them in their place," Nemo said. "And our nurses are standing up not because of financial issues, but because the staffing has gotten that bad. The unsafe staffing is that bad. So it's unfortunate. As you can tell, [the hospitals] are not budging."
Maureen Schriner, spokeswoman for Twin Cities Hospitals, said it's the nurses union that's not budging.
"What we're seeing in terms of the push for a strike is a national nurse union that is intent on using these aggressive means, rather than negotiations," Schriner said.
Schriner said the union's staffing proposal, which would mandate strict nurse-to-patient ratios, is unworkable. The hospitals estimate it would cost them $750 million over the 3 years of the nurses' contract.
She said hospitals put together a contract proposal that tries to keep health care affordable and accessible for all patients. She thinks if nurses thoroughly read the contract proposals themselves they might be less inclined to authorize another strike.
"We think that the more that the nurses really understand the proposals that the Twin Cities Hospitals have put forward, the more that they will see the reasonableness that we are offering, versus the conflict and confrontation that the union continues to propose," Schriner said.
Nurse negotiators will hold meetings throughout the week to explain the union's strike plan to all of its nurses. The negotiators are also seeking feedback from the nurses on last week's one-day strike.