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Nurses walk informational picket lines for safety, benefits

Nurses walked an informational picket line May 22 at Minneapolis Children's Hospital.
Nurses walked an informational picket line May 22 at Minneapolis Children’s Hospital..

Adapted from the Minneapolis Labor Review, May 31, 2019

[Editor’s Note: After the May 31 issue of the Labor Review went to press, the Minnesota Nurses Association provided this update May 30: “As a result of this very successful informational picket, Children’s management offered up the same workplace violence proposal language that nurses won at Methodist hospitals the week before. No strings attached.” MNA accepted this workplace violence proposal as part of a tentative agreement, with other issues still on the table.]

By Steve Share, Minneapolis Labor Review editor

MINNEAPOLIS — With  contract negotiations stalemated, members of the Minnesota Nurses Association were walking informational picket lines at Twin Cities hospitals as the Labor Review went to press May 25. The nurses’ contracts expire May 31.

“They’re making us choose between taking care of our families and being safe at work,” said Elaina Hane, a 17-year MNA member who works in the pediatric intensive care unit at St. Paul Children’s Hospital. Hane is part of MNA’s bargaining team.

MNA said hospital negotiators insisted that nurses drop economic proposals addressing benefits if they wanted to receive workplace violence protections.

“Citywide we’re concerned about violence in the hospital,” said Doreen McIntyre, an MNA member for almost 29 years who works at Minneapolis Children’s Hospital. “It’s always happening.”

“We get hit and punched and kicked and scratched,” said Michelle Cotterell, 15-year MNA member, who works at Minneapolis Children’s. Management’s response? “It’s okay. We’re supposed to just deal with it.”

At a May 14 negotiating session, Hane related, “hospital negotiators said they would give us workplace violence proposals only if we gave up everything else… and then they just left.”

“We had maybe 40 nurses in the room and it was 11:00 p.m. at night. They just left,” she said. Later, the hospital negotiators sent a text saying they would not be back for the night.

As nurses walked an informational picket line at Minneapolis Children’s Hospital May 22, Hane, McIntyre and Cotterell — all negotiating team members — shared other issues nurses want to see solutions for at the bargaining table.

Nurses Elaina Hane (left) and Doreen McIntyre (right)
Nurses Elaina Hane (left) and Doreen McIntyre (right), members of the MNA bargaining team, on the picket line at Minneapolis Children’s Hosptial.

“Our health insurance has gone up every year and it’s becoming unaffordable for nurses and their families,” McIntyre said.

“The hospitals want nurses to go back to school,” McIntyre added, but the reimbursement rates offered are “at least 20 years old.”

“We have nurses who have student loan debt — they’re making monthly payments like a house payment,” she said.

Cotterell said lack of breaks is a concern. “It’s hard to provide safe patient care if you go 12 hours without a break, even 8 hours.” She added that nurses can get in trouble for taking a break — or for not taking a break.

“We haven’t opened our contracts in many years. They’re pretty antiquated,” McIntyre said.

“We’re fighting for a fair contract,” Cotterell said.

From the hospital side, “we need some combination of something,” Hane said.

If nurses and hospitals come to an agreement, that offer will need to be ratified by MNA members in a special vote. If that vote fails after the contract expires, nurses may elect to begin a strike across one or more metro hospital facilities.

The hospitals included in negotiations include: Abbott Northwestern Hospital and Phillips Eye Institute; Children’s Minneapolis; Children’s St. Paul; Fairview Southdale and Fairview Riverside; HealthEast St. Joseph’s, St. John’s, and Bethesda; Mercy; Methodist; North Memorial; United; Unity.

The expiring contracts cover about 13,000 nurses.

Another negotiating session was planned for May 31, the day the contracts were set to expire.

For updates: mnnurses.org.

 



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