Imagine everyone in your town wanting to let you know you are awesome. MNA nurses in International Falls don’t have to dream.
Eight months into negotiating a contract with management at Rainy Lake Medical Center (RLMC), the 27-member bargaining unit is literally seeing signs of support throughout this picturesque city that shares a border with Canada.
Over 100 signs, sporting the message “We Support Our Nurses” are being posted in shop windows; hoisted high by firefighters, paramedics and EMTs; cradled by senior apartment residents; and displayed on bulletin boards throughout the city’s commercial districts. It’s a message warmly given from the town often referred to as “America’s Icebox.” In addition, members of several other unions in the area have signed petitions of solidarity for the nurses.
RLMC management has yet to receive the message. Contract talks on Tuesday ended after the union and hospital could not come to agreement settling outstanding proposals in negotiations.
A key issue is hospital management’s attempt to force a “management rights” clause into the next three-year contract. Nurses fear the provision could lead to administrative personnel perceiving they have power to make arbitrary decisions that impact nursing practice and patient safety.
A petition, signed by 100 percent of the nurses and delivered to management in February characterized, the tactic as a “serious overreach of authority.”
“When it comes to the care we are able to give and how we can advocate for our patients, this proposal ties our hands,” said MNA negotiating team member Diane Olek. She is especially concerned about the fast-changing dynamics of health care.“ This is a contract we will have to live with and health care is changing so quickly,” said Olek. She worries that non-providers believing they can arbitrarily make unilateral decisions about nurse staffing without negotiating them will compromise the safety of patients in the hospital. “Why lock ourselves into this?”
Lisa Hay, an active union member, considers it an unacceptable concession of rights and professional nursing judgment. At a recent all-RN meeting, Hay warned her colleagues “When I looked at the management rights clause I said ‘what you take away from us, you take away from patients’.”
Those values run through the whole nurse group. “I feel 100 percent support at the table,” said MNA Co-Chair Wendy Sutch. “All of our nurses feel very strongly they want to have a voice in patient care.” She describes her colleagues as a tight-knit group and especially sees a deep river of resolve in the younger nurses. “They’re aware of what their future could be based on this contract. Everyone’s on board.”
That solidarity and community support will be on full display for RLMC management to view on Tues., May 6 when MNA nurses intend to conduct an informational picket in front of the hospital from noon – 2:00 p.m.