Press Release: MNA Nurses Will Battle Essentia Health Over Flu Shot Firings

Contact:  Rick Fuentes
(o) 651-414-2863
(c) 612-741-0662

Barbara Brady
(o) 651-414-2849
(c) 651-202-0845


(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.



  1. What’s next? Protecting nurses who choose not to wash their hands? Save your fight for things that matter and not commonsense precautions.

  2. A big thanks to Steve Strand and our sisters and brothers. I am so proud of you!

  3. Mr Fuentes
    I want to thank you and your team for leading the effort against the mandatory flu vaccine policy.
    I want to bring the following issue to your attention:

    two new studies published this year point to a potential risk of spontaneous abortion and autism (in the newborn) for women who receive the vaccine in the first trimester. although the quality of evidence is not high, however it is as good as the quality in studies that showed safety and benefit of the vaccine.

    on the other hand vaccine effectiveness studies are all observational in nature and use a test-negative design which is a relatively new design and its validity is still under study.

    More important is the following statement from the CDC:

    CDC Guidance
    As always, health care decisions should be part of an ongoing discussion between provider and patient. CDC recommends that any pregnant woman who has questions about vaccines talk to her health care provider. Providers should use their clinical judgement based on various factors including their patient’s health status, local influenza activity, and the benefits versus the potential risks from flu vaccination when deciding whether and/or when to immunize their patient against influenza.

    This statement applies to any reproductive age women who is interested in pregnancy. thus the decision to administer the vaccine should be based on a discussion between patient and provider and should not be mandatory. in this context, Essentia’s policy to mandate the vaccine on reproductive age women is not in line with CDC guidance.

    following are the studies mentioned above:

    1. Association of spontaneous abortion with receipt of inactivated influenza vaccine containing H1N1pdm09 in 2010-11 and 2011-12. Donahue JG, Kieke BA, King JP, DeStefano F, Mascola MA, Irving SA, Cheetham TC, Glanz JM, Jackson LA, Klein NP, Naleway AL, Weintraub E, Belongia EA Vaccine. 2017;35(40):5314.

    2. Association Between Influenza Infection and Vaccination During Pregnancy and Risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Zerbo O, Qian Y, Yoshida C, Fireman BH, Klein NP, Croen LA JAMA Pediatr. 2017 Jan;171(1):e163609.

    3. The test-negative design for estimating influenza vaccination effectiveness. Online J Public Health Inform. 2017; 9(1): e025.

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