Contact: Rick Fuentes
(St. Paul) – November 20, 2017 – The Minnesota Nurses Association will file grievances to win back the jobs and wages of every single registered nurse fired for not participating in Essentia Health’s mandatory flu shot policy.
“Essentia Health showed nurses they did not intend to bargain with us in good faith,” said Steve Strand, co-chair of the bargaining unit in Duluth. “We tried to sit down with management, but Essentia executives told us they intend to follow through with terminations and mandatory flu shots regardless.”
MNA nurses proposed a voluntary program that rewards employees for participating in the flu shot, rather than a contentious mandatory policy. The nurses negotiating team also sought protections for nurses who have any adverse reactions to the flu shot, including allowing nurses to use sick time without facing discipline from Essentia.
“It was clear that Essentia had no intention to negotiate,” Strand said. “MNA nurses were obligated to fight this clearly illegal policy implementation with the filing of an Unfair Labor Practice charge. We will file grievances to fight for any nurses terminated for sticking to their beliefs and contract language.”
Essentia has told nurses they will be terminated on November 20, and more will be fired when their exemption paperwork is rejected. Nurses have filed for exemptions on religious and medical grounds but expect very few, if any, to be honored.
Nurses continue to oppose the mandatory flu shot policy for many reasons. Voluntary programs have been shown to easily increase participation; such policies often do not take into account employees’ religious or moral convictions; and healthcare workers are often disciplined for using sick time within a period of time – even if the sick time is a result to an adverse flu shot reaction.
The Minnesota Department of Health is on the record that there is no evidence to suggest that healthcare systems mandating flu shots see a significant reduction in influenza cases in their facilities.
MNA will announce the number of terminations of nurses as information becomes available.