Spectacular show of solidarity

After multiple contract negotiating sessions, MNA nurses in the Twin Ports are turning to the public in their campaign for a fair contract.

Nurses at Essentia and St. Luke’s hospitals in Duluth and Superior packed the July 8 Duluth City Council meeting to share their concerns and ask for councilors’ support as they negotiate new contracts. Their current contracts expired June 30.

Nearly 200 nurses filled the council chamber and hallways as four MNA members and MNA Executive Director Rose Roach addressed councilors about their concerns about patient care, scheduling the appropriate number of nurses to care for patients, and workplace safety.

“It’s no surprise that nurses’ top concern is our patients,” MNA Essentia Health St. Mary’s nurse Amber Verhel told councilors. “It’s becoming more apparent at each bargaining session that our proposals to make sure there are enough nurses on every shift to safely care for patients are meeting resistance.”

Nurses are very concerned about safe staffing – the right number of patients for nurses to care for at one time.

“At each hospital, we are seeing more and more situations where there aren’t enough nurses, and patient care is endangered,” said Verhel. “We do everything possible to prevent problems, but it’s the hospitals that must address this crisis. They must do more to attract and keep quality nurses here.”

“Unfortunately, there often are not enough nurses to care for patients,” said St. Luke’s ICU nurse Susie Moss a member of the bargaining team. “Nurses love what we do, but it is very upsetting that we sometimes struggle to care for patients the way we want to because there aren’t enough nurses and aides on shifts.”

“The hospitals must do more to resolve this crisis and bring in more excellent nurses,” said St. Luke’s RN Pete Boyechechko, a member of the bargaining team. “So far, their attempts have fallen short, although we know they have tried to find more staff. Nurses are proposing ideas to attract and keep quality nurses” but the hospitals are not receptive to those ideas.

Essentia RN Chris Rubesch showed councilors a stack of petitions with more than 1,300 signatures from nurses in both systems, calling for the hospitals to take immediate steps to correct the staffing crisis.

“Nurses have made proposals but but have had no answer,” Rubesch told councilors.

Nurses also shared their concerns about violence in the facilities, noting both systems have reached tentative agreements on measures to deal with violence after an attack has occurred. Nurses plan to focus on preventing assaults next.

Essentia nurses told councilors they support the Vision Northland project, but the hospital is not seeking their input as the professionals taking care of patients at the bedside every day and night. They asked the councilors to keep Essentia focused on what’s most important: patient care.

“In addition to what’s going on outside the building, Essentia must also focus on what’s going on inside the hospital,” Rubesch said. “Nurses believe we should have a state-of-the-art building, but we also need state-of-the-art patient care.”

The nurses called on councilors to use their voices as members of the City Council to stand with them and speak to the hospitals about these critical issues and concerns.

MNA nurses can support Twin Ports colleagues by being prepared to act when called. Watch MNA’s Facebook page for updates.