By Mercy Hospital MNA Chairs Sara Wahto and LouAnn Uhr; Unity Hospital MNA Chairs Robin Larson and Gail Olson; and United Hospital MNA Chairs Bunny Engeldorf, Emily Sippola, and Brittany Livaccari
We all wring our hands over mandatory low needing. It’s a major problem at hospitals everywhere and can affect the quality of care we can provide our patients. However, nurses in union facilities have the power to address the issue through the grievance process and make a difference.
Here’s how MNA nurses at Allina Mercy, United, and Unity hospitals won a major victory to stop a faulty low needing process at our hospitals:
Incorrect mandatory low need assignments have been a long-standing problem at our hospitals. We have voiced our concerns over and over, and kept the issue on the front burner.
Historically, the system would pay nurses for lost hours when they were given mandatory low need in violation of their contract.
More recently, Allina tried to change course on that past practice by refusing to pay nurses for lost hours and instead only offering them the remedy to work an extra shift to make up for the hospital’s mistake. Nurses rejected that inadequate offer and filed multiple grievances, 14 of which proceeded to the arbitration level.
Nurses remained vigilant and kept pushing for a fair resolution, showing management and members that unions never stop working for what’s right.
Although it took over a year to settle some of the grievances, Allina finally agreed to reimburse nurses for their lost wages, and a Letter of Understanding was negotiated that contractually binds them to either pay nurses for all hours lost due to mistakes made by the hospitals, or give nurses the option of applying the inappropriate action to low need days up to their cap.
This settlement protects nurses’ contractual rights and sends a clear message to employers that nurses will not let them get away with trying to violate our contracts and cost members money and rights.
Our message to other MNA nurses: it might take some time, but by standing strong, we can achieve victories for our co-workers and ourselves.