FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Nurses have been working without a contract since Essentia purchased the facility in 2020 and executives refused to recognize nurses’ existing contract
Nurses voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike to demand a fair resolution to contract negotiations
(Moose Lake) – August 17, 2022 – Yesterday, nurses with the Minnesota Nurses Association at Essentia Moose Lake voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike as they seek a fair contract to address under-staffing and retention at the hospital and to keep nurses at the bedside providing care to the community. This vote comes one day after 15,000 nurses in the Twin Cities and Twin Ports also voted to overwhelmingly authorize a strike.
“We are voting to strike because our patients deserve better and we deserve better. Essentia has ignored our pleas to focus on staff retention,” said Tristin Eastvold, RN. “Having a fair contract that gives nurses a voice on safe staffing, scheduling and fair compensation retains staff. So far, every action we have taken has been ignored. We feel we have no other choice than to strike.”
Moose Lake nurses continue to seek a fair first contract with Essentia Health, who purchased the hospital two years ago and immediately refused to recognize nurses’ existing contract. As a result of refusal by Essentia Health executives to recognize the nurses’ prior contract, Moose Lake nurses have lost bonuses, earned sick leave hours, and company retirement contributions, despite promises that the acquisition would benefit the community. Nurses at Moose Lake previously held an informational picket in June in their effort to pressure Essentia executives to settle a fair contract.
“We have been bargaining with Essentia for a fair contract for two years. We are fighting for a contract that will help ensure retention of our nurses, a contract that will align with other facilities in our service area to keep experienced nurses,” said Sarah Lambert, RN. “Years without a contract and the resulting wage freeze has led to such high turnover and staff dissatisfaction, it is time for this to end! The treatment of the nurses in Moose Lake by Essentia has shown that they are a company who cannot exhibit their own core values, a company that clearly does not care about the communities it serves.”
Contract negotiations between nurses and Essentia have been ongoing for more than two years, as Essentia executives force nurses to re-negotiate for standard contract language they had previously worked under for decades. Currently, executives at the health system have refused nurses’ requests for language that would address shift scheduling, allowing nurses more input and predictability in their schedules as they balance a demanding career with other responsibilities. The holdup over scheduling means that executives still will not engage on the topic of wages and compensation with the Moose Lake nurses, despite two years of drawn-out talks.
The anti-union corporate healthcare policies pushed by Essentia executives are driving many Moose Lake nurses to leave the jobs and patient care they love. Right now, Moose Lake has a higher turnover rate than other Essentia facilities in the region. In negotiations with Essentia on topics like scheduling, staffing, and compensation, Moose Lake nurses are seeking to address the understaffing and retention issues at the hospital to keep nurses at the bedside and put patients and community care before corporate healthcare policies and profits.
Nurses voted overwhelmingly to authorize the strike, which required a supermajority of votes to pass. The vote authorizes nurse negotiation leaders to call a strike following a 10-day notice to hospital employers.