FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Staffing language will help ensure staffing levels do not get worse, give nurses a voice to advocate for safe patient care
Nurses will continue to fight to ensure safe staffing levels, oppose corporate healthcare in Minnesota
(St. Paul and Duluth) – December 14, 2022 – Nurses with the Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) at 15 hospitals in the Twin Cities and Twin Ports voted overwhelmingly to ratify new three-year contracts which include new language to address short-staffing by executives in our hospitals. Ratification votes took place this past Friday, Monday, and Tuesday, after tentative agreements were reached last week which averted a planned strike for 15,000 nurses across the state. As they celebrated the ratification of their new contracts today, nurses reiterated their intent to oppose corporate healthcare mergers like those being pursued by M Health Fairview and Essentia Health, and to reintroduce the Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act at the Minnesota Legislature this session.
“With these contracts, the staffing levels set by our hospital executives will never get worse than they are today, as nurses won a new voice in the process and better protections to appeal for the safe staffing levels we need,” said Mary C. Turner, RN at North Memorial Hospital and President of the Minnesota Nurses Association. “This is a historic victory for nurses and patients at the bedside, but our work is not done. Nurses will continue fighting to oppose the corporate healthcare policies that threaten our hospital systems and the care our patients deserve.”
The new contracts include new language to address chronic understaffing in our hospitals for the first time in history. For decades, MNA nurses have fought for contract language and legislation to ensure safe staffing at the bedside, while hospital executives denied the problem and insisted on the status quo. Staffing changes won by MNA nurses in the contracts will give nurses a say in how staffing levels are set and to ensure changes to staffing levels benefit nurses and patients at the bedside. Staffing changes won by nurses include language to prevent reductions in staffing levels without consensus between nurses and management; help protect nurses from discipline when they raise concerns about unsafe assignments; and to trigger reviews of staffing levels by nurses and management in response to key measures of patient and nurse wellbeing and outcomes.
“It took nine months of negotiations for our hospital executives to understand that nurses would not back down in the fight for better care and working conditions in our hospitals,” said Chris Rubesch, RN at Essentia in Duluth and First Vice President of the Minnesota Nurses Association. “These contracts are a critical step to address the chronic short-staffing and other corporate healthcare policies hurting patients and nurses at the bedside. Now, we must pass the Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act to ensure safe staffing levels to retain nurses and protect patient care in communities throughout Minnesota.”
In addition to the new contracts at these 15 hospitals where nurses have been negotiating since March, nurses at Essentia Moose Lake also ratified a three-year contract, their first with Essentia since the hospital chain purchased their community clinic more than two years ago. The new contract includes a retroactive pay increase of 5 percent for the last year, a new wage grid with average increases of 9 percent in the first year, and wage increases matching the Twin Ports in years two and three. The 18 MNA nurses at St. Luke’s Lake View hospital in Two Harbors, who had voted to join a planned strike, withdrew their strike notice last week as a sign of good faith while negotiations continue for a new contract. Lake View nurses have been working without a contract since September 2022.
Nurses at Hennepin County also reached a tentative agreement last week in their wage reopener negotiations, matching the wage increase won by other Twin Cities nurses for 2022. As Hennepin nurses prepare to bargain for a new three-year contract in the coming year, they remain committed to addressing issues of under-staffing, retention, and hospital safety for nurses and patients. Hennepin nurses will vote to ratify the tentative agreement on wages in the coming days.
Along with staffing language, the contracts for the 15 hospitals include historic pay raises of 18 percent over three years for nurses in the Twin Cities, and 17 percent for nurses in the Twin Ports, with pay retroactive to the previous contract’s expiration. These wage increases represent the largest won by MNA nurses in over two decades. These new contracts will help to retain nurses at the bedside at a time when over half of all nurses are considering leaving bedside nursing due to chronic understaffing and poor management by hospital executives. Along with improved wages and staffing language, several contracts include additional gains including workplace safety protections.
Nurses are resolved to continue the fight against the corporate healthcare practices that have understaffed our hospitals for years and that threaten to put profits before patients in our hospitals. Nurses are fighting against corporate healthcare mergers and monopolies that threaten choice, access, and affordability of healthcare for Minnesotans, and will continue the fight for safe staffing levels at the Minnesota Legislature next session.