By Megan Gavin
MNA Education Specialist
I opened a card last week that read, “Thank you so much for granting me hardship funds…without your generosity and assistance I don’t know how I’d get through. It is with heart-felt gratitude that I write to thank you all, for all you’ve continued to do throughout our difficult contract negotiations. Please know how grateful I truly am.” The sender continues with an anecdote about her personal experience and how these funds helped her, and I was in tears before finishing.
As MNA’s education specialist, I’ve been putting together workshops on the community resources for union members during a strike. During the strike in June there were MNA members who faced some difficult hardships: single-parents with special needs children and costs that could not be delayed; nurses with a long-time, out-of-work spouse; or a family member undergoing cancer treatment. A number of these nurses applied for and received financial support from the strike hardship fund.
A group of MNA members have volunteered to be on their respective committees to review the applications. It is a difficult job to say the least. The committee members could not grant all the requests because the MNA board policy establishes that financial hardship must be demonstrated. The fund was not created to replace wages, and it’s simply not large enough to do so. The fund was created as a restricted asset fund and can only be used for these purposes: to cover the costs of the strike (food, supplies, equipment, space rentals, etc.); to support for union members who have significant financial burdens due to the strike; to support other labor organizations for the purpose of assisting their members who are on strike.
The outside of the card from our strike fund recipient stated “Sometimes the people we count on the most are the ones who hear thank you the least.” Since the Strike Hardship Fund Committees members are anonymous (we don’t want people sending them chocolates or offering back rubs) they won’t hear directly from the fund recipients. I want to take a moment to thank the nurses who have volunteered so much time and emotional energy to serve their fellow nurses by taking on this very difficult job. Given that we have limited resources in the strike fund, it’s not easy to award money to one union brother or sister but not another one. In a perfect world everyone could be kept whole, but in a perfect world, workers shouldn’t have to battle over their lives and livelihoods through collective bargaining.
Individually, $1.67 buys you a cup of pretty bad coffee, but combine that with thousands of other nurses, and there’s a strike hardship fund of $4.3 million, which is owned and shared collectively by the 20,809 members of MNA from Thief River Falls to Mankato, from Worthington to Duluth. This is the power of being a union member. No one individual nurse has the money or the influence to stand up to the behemoths of corporate healthcare. Together, however, we do.
Your community is behind you and your fellow MNA members from other facilities are behind you. If you would like to come to the MNA office for more in depth conversations on the Community Resources Available to MNA members during a strike, we have workshops this week and next. Click the link here.